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FTF Board welcomes three new members

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Governor Doug Ducey has nominated three outstanding community leaders to serve on the FTF Board. The three new members include:

  • Amelia Flores, an elected leader of the Colorado River Indian Tribes;
  • Rev. Darren Hawkins, senior pastor of the Sierra Vista Presbyterian Church in Yuma; and
  • Helena Whitney, a senior consultant with Health Management Associates.

FTF Board Chair Nadine Basha said each nominee will bring a valued perspective to the Board and its work.

“When you look at the combined experience of the nominees, it includes the insight and perspectives of parents, grandparents, elected tribal leaders, the faith community, private enterprise, health professionals and policymakers,” Basha said. “We want to thank Gov. Ducey for this wonderful complement to the expertise that already exists on the Board.”

Recognition of outgoing Board members Janice Decker and Vivian Saunders will occur at a future Board meeting in Phoenix.  FTF caught up with each of the nominees and asked them to share a little bit of their background and why they wanted to serve on the statewide Board. Their information and answers are below.


Amelia Flores serves as an elected Council Member of the Colorado River Indian Tribes, including two years as Tribal Council Secretary. Prior to her FTF Board nomination, Amelia served on the FTF CRIT Regional Partnership Council. Her past experience also includes work as Library and Archive Director for the CRIT Library for over 20 years, as well as past and current volunteer service for a number of boards and councils. Amelia has Associate’s degrees from Arizona Western and Northland Pioneer Colleges. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in Education from Northern Arizona University and a Master’s degree in Linguistics from the University of Arizona. Asked about why she joined the FTF Board, Amelia said,

Education has always been important to me – as an individual, as a mother and as a community leader. My previous work with tribal libraries reinforced for me the crucial difference that language and literacy play in children’s success. I hope that experience – as well as my perspectives as an elected tribal leader, former regional council member and past grantee – will be beneficial to the statewide Board in its efforts to improve education and health outcomes for all Arizona’s young children.”


Rev. Dr. Darren Hawkins, senior pastor of the Sierra Vista Presbyterian Church, also served as Chair of the FTF Yuma Regional Partnership Council. Darren has had the opportunity to work in Christian education, stewardship, outreach, fellowship, personnel and mission committees. He also has been actively involved in a number of community programs. Darren holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Point Loma Nazarene University, a Master’s of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary, a Master’s in Marriage and Family Counseling from Fuller School of Psychology, and a Doctor of Ministry in Pastoral Theology from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Darren said he sees his nomination to the FTF Board as an extension of his regional council service to young children.

It’s about the kids. I have seen firsthand the difference First Things First has made in the life of children and I believe that work is worth supporting with my time and energy. When I served as Chair of the FTF Yuma Regional Council, I saw how community collaboration and leveraging of regional dollars could strengthen the early childhood system and create sustainable change for kids. One example was the recent opening of Yuma’s first community school, which includes preschool, health resources, and social services. Successes like this made me want to do even more to support school readiness for all children in Arizona. I know that serving on the state Board, I can both share and receive information and insight that will benefit young children in my community and communities throughout the state. For me, Board service is about more than getting kids ready for school and set for life; it’s about giving kids the best possible start they can have in the State of Arizona.”


Helena Whitney is a senior consultant with Health Management Associates, where she effectively bridges the policy and the politics of healthcare with her combination of public health, legislative affairs and community outreach experience. Helena has designed and delivered online and classroom-based courses on organizational leadership and societal change for the College of Public Service and Community Solutions at Arizona State University. Prior to joining HMA, Helena was vice president of government relations and legislative affairs for the University of Arizona Health Network (UAHN) and previously served as a senior health and human services policy advisor for the Arizona House of Representatives. Helena earned her master’s and bachelor’s degrees in social work with a concentration in public policy from Arizona State University.

“Education is one of the main social determinants of health. Educational attainment is a major predictor of ‘good’ health outcomes, while a lack of education often leads to health disparities. Here in the United States, poor health outcomes are increasing, creating a larger gap in health status between Americans with high and low education. Early childhood education is key to closing this gap and eliminating health disparities. I’m looking forward to being a part of continuously improving early childhood education in Arizona by serving on the First Thing’s First board. Access to quality early childhood education is extremely important for a child’s future success, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to help expand that opportunity to as many of Arizona’s children as possible.”

Although the nominations must be approved by the state Senate in order to be permanent, all three individuals may begin serving immediately.

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