Mary Manner

Great Start Collaborative Coordinator

Mary Ufford Manner, originally from Ashtabula OH, attended Interlochen Arts Academy and fell in love with northern Michigan.  After receiving her Bachelors and Masters of Science in Zoology from Michigan State University, and living in various places around the country, Mary returned to Traverse City to raise her family.  Her professional work has been in formal and informal science education for children and families, with a focus on ecology and fresh water resources.

“I often marvel that the older I get, the younger my audience becomes.  As a twenty-something I vowed to never work with people younger than college-aged, and planned my career path accordingly.  As a thirty-something mother of three young boys, volunteering in their preschools and elementary schools was the right thing to do.  And while I was there, I came to the realization that kindergartners are the very best experimentalists.  The curiosity, creativity and enthusiasm they exhibit are the hallmarks of great scientists, great artists, great engineers, and everyone who feels a passion for their work.  You might say I tumbled into early childhood, but now that I’m here—I’m here to stay.  My goal is to ensure that all children get to experience the wonder and enjoyment of learning, and to find their passions.”
Work: 231-995-7114
Cell: 231-632-5510


Missy Smith

Great Start Parent Liaison

Missy Smith is a mom to 4 lovely daughters, a lifelong resident of Michigan, and passionate about the nurturing and education of young children. She was an elementary classroom teacher for over 10 years and holds degrees in education from both the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, working with children and families for over 30 years.

Much of her work in the community centers around finding and sharing parent voice to improve our early childhood system to achieve better outcomes for children. Missy guides parent-led work on parent-identified projects within the Great Start Collaborative and 5toONE Network to ensure that children are healthy, thriving and developmentally on track, ready to succeed in school and life. This includes helping families access affordable, high quality early care and learning and building strong families through meaningful community interaction.

“Being a parent is my most important work.  Our children, no matter how they come to us, have so much to offer the world and deserve our complete respect and devotion. Children are the culmination of our most powerful efforts and emotions and there is nothing more worthy or satisfying than to witness their growth into compassionate, creative, hard-working, thoughtful, and giving members of society.”