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Denise L. Smith, MA

Hope Starts Here Detroit Early Childhood Partnership
Implementation Director

Denise is the first implementation director of Hope Starts Here Detroit Early Childhood Partnership. Denise brings to this role a wealth of experience as an early childhood leader in Detroit and throughout the state of Michigan, rooted in her deep, personal commitment to children, families, and community. Her visionary leadership will propel the implementation of Hope Starts Here to new levels of effectiveness.

As Implementation Director, Denise will be responsible for implementing the Hope Starts Here framework, which was developed through a year-long community engagement process that drew on more than 18,000 Detroit residents to identify priorities for the city’s early childhood development system. Reflecting Hope Starts Here’s commitment to a distributed leadership model, Denise’s primary role will be to facilitate connections between the many community-based organizations supporting Detroit’s young children and families, strengthening the network of early childhood partners behind a common vision and set of strategies that come together to form a coherent early childhood development system, striving for a Detroit that puts its young children and their families first.

Denise is a native Detroiter, and for more than six years has focused her efforts on collaborative, community-based work to improve the early childhood education and care system for children and families in our most vulnerable communities. She also sits as a co-chair of the executive committee for Michigan’s Pritzker Prenatal-to-Age-Three grant and serves as one of 13 appointees to Michigan’s PreK-12 Literacy Commission.

Before returning to her hometown to continue leadership in early childhood system-building, Smith served as the executive director of the Flint Early Childhood Collaborative and Educare Flint, a system-level address to the needs of young children and their families as a result of the Flint water emergency. Previous posts have included vice president of early learning at Excellent Schools Detroit, and director of Great Start to Quality, Michigan’s statewide and tiered quality rating and improvement system at the Early Childhood Investment Corporation. Her expertise also includes extensive experience designing, managing and consulting of early learning and care programs. Denise completed her undergraduate work in both Communication and in French at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and her graduate degree in Human Development, Education Leadership and Infant Toddler Development, from Pacific Oaks College, CA.