Marilee Dal Pra is chief executive officer of First Things First. As 2021 begins, she shares her hopes for continuing to advance First Things First’s mission to help all of Arizona’s young children learn, grow and succeed.
As our state moves into 2021 with hopeful anticipation, we acknowledge that some of the challenges of the past year remain with us. As Arizona’s early childhood agency, one positive outcome that we hope will continue is the wider recognition of child care as an essential need. If it was not understood before, the current child care crisis has made it clear to more Arizonans that our state’s economic development is closely tied to the availability of quality child care to help support families in the workforce.
While this immediate need is a priority, we should not overlook that early education is also key to building our future citizens and workforce. The pandemic revealed both the fragility of our early education system and its importance. We still have a lot of work to do to help more people understand that. For that reason, FTF is launching its statewide awareness campaign – Early Learning, Lifelong Impact – this month.
The campaign focuses on the message that the experiences children have in their first five years impact all areas of their lives, which in turn impacts the future of our state. The skills a child builds from birth to age 5 are foundational to becoming a healthy and successful community member. We invite you to share the 30-second Early Learning, Lifelong Impact video with others who should hear this important message.
In addition to this statewide awareness campaign, FTF is looking forward to continuing efforts initiated last year to examine our work through an equity lens. Certainly, the national conversation about race and equity that surged to the forefront in 2020 will continue to be an important area of focus for many organizations in 2021. At FTF, our state Board is leading a thoughtful, intentional examination of all aspects of our work to ensure that we are upholding our mission to effectively serve all Arizona’s children birth to age 5, and especially those children impacted by systemic inequities.
This examination will align well with our strategic planning efforts, which will continue more intensively over the next year as we work toward the new strategic plan cycle beginning in state fiscal year 2024.
During this planning time, we will continue to ensure that programs and services that strengthen families and communities remain available during these tough times. Throughout the past year, I was humbled by the resilience of our partners who found innovative ways to carry on services and support to families with young children. We are grateful for their dedication.
Challenging times are also times of great opportunity. Let us use the momentum that has been built to push for meaningful and long-lasting change for early childhood. Thank you for being part of our FTF community and for all that you have done to help support our state’s youngest children and their families over the past year. We look forward to our continued partnership, no matter what the new year brings!