Rich VanTol is a supervisor at Bay Arenac Intermediate School District and the Coordinator of the Great Start Collaborative (GSC) for Bay and Arenac Counties. The GSC focuses on support for child development and advocacy for higher standards in early childhood education. The GSC brings together partners across the community including parents, community leaders, health, education, and business leaders, along with local philanthropies, to accomplish better results for young children and their families. VanTol takes great care to align the efforts of the GSC to THRIVE.  As result, both initiatives are stronger.

Q1. Can you give us examples of how the GSC and THRIVE partnership serves the children in our region on a daily basis?

The major focus of our partnership is Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) and how to build a community that is more resilient to the typical negative life-long effects of ACES. Since June, we have been working very hard on an action plan to accomplish set strategies and we will have a symposium on this topic on December 10th.

We also work together to ensure that children and families have access to preventive care and are keeping current on their well exams.  We naturally align our strategies and efforts in all areas of health: maternal, prenatal, physical, oral and behavioral to maximize positive outcomes and avoid duplicating services and efforts.

Q2. In your opinion, what are the top three areas of concern for children 0-8 years old?

  1. Toxic Stress/Trauma/Adverse Childhood Experience/Epigenetics (the inherited genetic impact of elevated stress) all have serious implications for the future health, education, and the economic and talent development of our region’s children.
  2. The need to increase support for parents, families and caregivers, including more capacity to address child development knowledge & skills in the home and in early care and education settings. Awareness of a child’s development and abilities helps all types of caregivers take care of a child in the best way possible. Along the same lines, the lack of access to high quality, affordable infant-toddler care often negatively impacts both families and employers–in the form of poor employee attendance, attrition and/or lack of talent in the workplace.
  3. The Lack of Public Support for Early Childhood is an on-going struggle. Lower compensation for early child care and education employees makes it difficult to attract, recruit, and retain high quality staff.

Q3. In 5 years, where do you predict your organization’s partnership with THRIVE to have the most measurable improvement for our region?

The biggest impact will be improved community resilience to lessen the negative effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences. Working effectively with children and their families is a multi-generational approach to improve health, education and economic outcomes. I also can see a future with improved prenatal, maternal, and preventive health/behavioral health.

Q4. How can a person or company assist the partnership between the GSC and THRIVE?

We all need to work stronger together to make progress to improve our community health and build a stronger regional economy–we cannot have one without the other.

If you would like more information about the Great Start Collaborative please contact Rich VanTol at 989.667.3280 or Additionally, you can contact the GSC Director at your Intermediate School District.

If you would like more information about THRIVE please contact Beth Roszatycki at