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By Teri Banas
The sixth annual Star Power was actually the first annual Star Power to take a “virtual turn” along with romps down local Main Streets across Michigan.
And the magic was the same – times 35.
“Virtual Star Power” – in which tens of thousands sent messages by email, video blog, letter and postcard to state lawmakers about the critical need of early childhood support – appeared to surpass its goal on Wednesday. With numbers still coming in, the final count of Michigan voices in support of early childhood was easily expected to top a projected 20,012 participants.
Included in that figure was the demonstrated strength of local Great Start Collaboratives, Parent Coalitions and Great Start to Quality Resource Centers in the very communities they touch. No less than 35 local events spotlighting the need to make early childhood a top legislative priority took place in small towns and big cities across the state. Sixteen of those gatherings were planned on Wednesday, while others emerged in the days leading up to and immediately following Star Power day.
There were parades, family fun fairs, a bridge walk, balloon launches, story walks and story readings in local business districts, and even a world record-breaking human star formation. (See related story.) Many events attracted as many as 500 to 1,000 people to a single gathering.
Something special emerged this week, said Sarah Triplett, Events Manager for the Early Childhood Investment Corporation.
“Star Power 2012 provided an opportunity for local Great Start organizations to shine in a unique way and to bring some of the magic of the Lansing-based Star Power event to their home communities,” she said in remarks during the presentation of this year’s Fierce Heart awards (see related story).
“Each event focused on how the Great Start initiative is making communities stronger, addressing school readiness, and in many cases, are connecting Michigan residents directly with lawmakers.”
Among events across the state was Genesee County’s attempt to break the Guinness World Record for most people to stand in the formation of a giant star. It did in a big way.
In Monroe County, a story walk took place in 25 participating downtown businesses where young authors from local schools set up shop to read their own prize-winning stories.
Copper County’s annual bridge walk between Houghton and Hancock drew more than 500 people.
There were countless unique expressions of Star Power.
Among them was a project of the Great Start Collaborative from Charlevoix, Emmet and northern Antrim Counties. Members created a hard-bound book, entitled “Early Childhood Investment in Action,” which spotlighted the challenges of providing services in rural areas.
Collaborative Director Maureen Hollocker brought copies of the book, containing photos and quotes from local families and service providers, to Lansing on Wednesday. She was joined by two youngsters – Jackson Hollocker and Dean Cameron – who were featured in it.
Another presentation that brought together the faces of early childhood supporters was a video project from the Eastern Upper Peninsula Great Start Collaborative. That project, entitled “Smile, Camera, Take Action,” featured 300 community members. Each held a white board on which was written a special message around the importance of investing in early childhood.
In Alcona County, children boldly took the stage in a “mock rock” show and displayed placards containing important facts to know about early childhood. A 7-year-old took first place in the singing contest.
“I had numerous people stop me and ask how to get involved or ask what they could do to help the cause,” said Angela Forsythe, the Great Start Parent Liaison for Alcona County.