Strong Beginnings at Benton Harbor Charter School Academy

In the late ‘80s, the Michigan Department of Education set out to develop a program aimed at making tuition-free preschool available to four-year olds. They started 53 projects and served over 600 children in their first year, the new name of that program being the Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP). Since then, Michigan’s GSRP has grown 60 times over, and over 30 years later in 2019 that model was used to outline a program for 3-year-olds in areas with limited access to education. It was named the Strong Beginnings program, and in January of 2021, Benton Harbor Charter School Academy was one of 12 schools state-wide able to participate.

3-year olds forming words and playing with letters in the classroom

Children sitting together in the classroom, socializing and playing together.

Children playing together in the classroom, playing with toys and socializing.

Two students sit together on a couch, each holding a toy while they play together.

Strong Beginnings runs from September through June with the same daily schedule as the preschool program, and uses a curriculum made for developing the skills necessary for GSRP. Students are provided busing to and from school and automatically given access to GSRP preschool in the next school year. The idea is that two years of intensive learning before kindergarten will give students a head-start in class regardless of community or family background.


Ms. Michelle, one of the teachers in this year’s program said, “The thing I noticed in this program is how fast children develop at this age. To me, this shows greater importance of having an opportunity for this age group to participate in a program like ours.”

Four students play in the snow together as they start a snowman by the playground.

Here at Benton Harbor Charter School Academy, we are proud to be one of the only schools offering a program like Strong Beginnings, and we encourage those in our community to enroll their children. To be eligible for this program, children have to have turned three on or before September 1, 2020, and spots are limited. For more information, please reach out to the director, Rebeka Hayes at