Community volunteers are critical to the work of First Things First. In fact, regional partnership councils made up of volunteers inform recommendations to the FTF state Board about which early childhood programs are funded locally.
These dedicated citizens represent the many facets of our community that have a stake in our young children’s success, including parents, educators, child care professionals, health care providers, tribal communities, faith representatives, business leaders, and philanthropists. Each member dedicates an estimated 120 hours each year to study the needs of their communities and work with local stakeholders to identify priorities for funding.
In State Fiscal Year 2019, there were eight individuals statewide who celebrated 10 years of service to young children in their communities. They join 45 individuals acknowledged for this milestone last year. FTF thanks and celebrates these amazing champions for children.
“I love that we are preparing children for school and we’re preparing their teachers,” said Joseph Mease, who serves as the school administrator representative on the FTF Tohono O’odham Nation Regional Council and is celebrating 10 years. “That’s how you impact generations to come. Our young children are our future; when we prepare them to do well in school, we’re starting to prepare them to do well in our communities.”
Being a regional council member goes beyond the work done in meeting rooms. Each member – in their professional and personal lives – works to connect others in their community with the work of FTF, whether building awareness of the importance of early childhood among audiences ranging from families to policymakers, or establishing community partnerships that help to expand or enhance the local supports for young children or their families.
Although members serve staggered four-year terms, many individuals apply for and are selected to serve additional terms.
“What I find most rewarding about serving on a regional council is knowing that we are bringing much-needed services to our young children,” said Cheryl Conde, who serves as the early learning professional representative on the FTF Tohono O’odham Nation Regional Council. “We have to provide the foundation for them to be successful in school and in life.”
Cheryl Conde, FTF Tohono O’odham Nation Region
Gloria Flores-Lopez, Colorado River Indian Tribes Region
John Jensen, Pascua Yaqui Tribe Region
Melisa Lunderville, Santa Cruz
Joseph Mease, Tohono O’odham Nation Region
Ricardo Perez, Yuma
Debra Winlock, Coconino
Mario Ybarra, Yuma