Scottsdale Independent

Volunteers recognized for contributing to national award

First Things First East Maricopa Regional Partnership Council at the First Things First Early Childhood Summit 2017. From left to right: Council Member Trinity Donovan, Council Member Dr. Lisa Bautista, Council Member Lynn Hockenberger, Chair Marie Raymond, East Maricopa Regional Director Conrad Lindo, Vice Chair Dr. Bill Myhr, Council Member Emily Rajakovich, Council Member Cheryl Foster. Not pictured: Council Member Sandra Marken, Council Member Dr. Michelle Taylor, Council Member Marin Velarde, Council Member Zeus Rodriguez. (submitted photo)

Community volunteers on the First Things First East Maricopa Regional Partnership Council were recently commended by the state board for their leadership and work on behalf of Arizona’s youngest children.

Earlier this year, First Things First was named among Harvard University’s Top 25 Innovations in American Government. The awards are presented by Harvard’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.

As a Top 25 program, First Things First represents the top 2 percent of all initial applications for the Innovations Award, according to a press release. The unique governance structure of FTF, which engages citizens from a variety of areas to study the needs of children within 28 different regions in Arizona and help set priorities for their community, was specifically mentioned.

Created by Arizona voters, First Things First works to expand and enhance early childhood education, health, and parenting programs that ensure more children arrive at kindergarten prepared to be successful.

Through a tiered governance structure, First Things First has engaged hundreds of volunteers to serve on its board and regional councils and make decisions about how early childhood funds are spent. To date, those volunteers have donated more than 288,000 hours of their expertise, insight and commitment in service to children birth to age 5 across the state.

“Through this model, citizens from all walks of life are engaged in creating what Arizona and America’s voters want most: government that works efficiently and effectively to improve outcomes for our communities, our state and our country,” said First Things First Board Chair Nadine Basha in her commendation letter to the local regional council.

“First Things First volunteers on the board and regional partnership councils share a solemn responsibility: ensuring that early childhood funds entrusted to us by Arizonans are helping more children arrive at kindergarten prepared to be successful.”

Through its innovative structure, First Things First decisions reflect the perspectives of the array of Arizonans who have a stake in helping young children be ready for school, including parents, tribal representatives, educators, health professionals, and leaders in business, philanthropy and faith.

The structure balances statewide impact with local flexibility, with an emphasis on transparency and accountability. The board is responsible for ensuring that strategies funded by First Things First improve outcomes for young children, the press release stated. The regional councils are responsible for ensuring that those strategies meet local needs and address community nuances, such as cultural considerations and service to families in rural areas.

“Thank you to the FTF Board for acknowledging the hard work and dedication of the East Maricopa Regional Council,” Marie Raymond, chair of the East Maricopa Regional Council, said in a prepared statement. “It is an honor to serve alongside each passionate council member who volunteers to help our community’s young children be successful once they enter kindergarten.”

The East Maricopa Regional Council received recognition at its East Maricopa October meeting.

The 2017 East Maricopa Regional Council members are: