Editor’s note: On April 2, Nadine Mathis Basha completed her service as the longest serving Board member in FTF history.
Earlier this month, I completed my service on the First Things First (FTF) Board. I look back at more than 10 years of leadership at FTF with such enormous pride and gratitude.
The pride comes from knowing that FTF is fulfilling its mission to Arizona voters and families by ensuring that more children arrive at kindergarten prepared to be successful. Our investments in evidence-based family support programs mean that thousands of families statewide have the information and support they need to feel confident in their role as their child’s first teacher. Through Quality First, we have ensured that more than 60,000 infants, toddlers and preschoolers every year have access to a higher standard of early learning. And, our efforts in preventive health have resulted in thousands of young children being screened for challenges and conditions which, if left unaddressed, could become learning issues later on.
The gratitude comes from knowing that none of these successes was achieved by FTF alone. Because FTF is more than an organization; it’s a movement. It’s the result of the combined efforts of families, caregivers, education and health professionals, public agencies, private businesses, advocates and policymakers to collectively and collaboratively improve outcomes for young children. And it is for that partnership – that shared commitment to get it right for Arizona’s children from the start – that I am truly and forever grateful.
I would be remiss if I did not call out a very special group of partners – the hundreds of volunteers, past and present, who have served on our Regional Partnership Councils. Your extraordinary leadership and commitment have been crucial to ensuring that FTF’s strategies and partnerships build upon the strengths and reflect the unique needs of our wonderfully diverse state. In each community I have visited, I have shared your pride and excitement at how our efforts are changing the lives of young children.
It’s difficult to leave anything that one has helped form and nurture, but I am confident that this is a good time for that transition. FTF has a Board with a wonderful balance of veteran and new members – people who know where we have been and have the vision to take us where we need to go. We have a staff of dedicated, consummate professionals who are leading and overseeing our day-to-day efforts; we have a cadre of passionate, caring volunteer councils helping to monitor our progress and inform our decision-making; and we have thousands of champions around the state working every day to make our collective vision a reality for Arizona’s children.
Although I will be gone from the day to day functions of FTF, I will still be one of those champions. Now, more than ever, I am convinced that improving the lives and life chances of children in Arizona requires each of us to do our part. I will do mine by continuing to be a voice – for research-based programs, for additional resources to implement those programs, and for the preservation of all that we have built together over the past decade.
In closing, this letter is not a goodbye as we still have much work to do. Rather, it is simply a humble note of thanks. Maya Angelou said, “If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform a million realities.” I have been lucky and blessed to see what was a spark — an idea that all children deserve a fair start in life — turn into a million realities for children. These realities have been created by thousands of like-minded advocates and champions for children over the past ten years. It has been the honor of a lifetime to know and serve with all of you. You have my sincerest thanks and gratitude for your advocacy and daily work on behalf of Arizona’s children and families.
Nadine Mathis Basha’s successor, Judge Richard Weiss of Mohave County, began his service on April 2. In addition, member Gayle Burns completed her service on April 10. She is succeeded by Vince Yanez. One additional Board member, Ruth Solomon, is expected to complete Board service in the coming weeks. Profiles of new members will be included in the May edition of Latest Things.