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Region Stories

These stories illustrate how early childhood programs and services funded by First Things First make a difference for young children and families in communities across Arizona.

Michael Peterson is the 2020 First Things First Graham/Greenlee Champion

Michael Peterson

Graham County Superior Court Judge Michael D. Peterson has been selected as the 2020 First Things First Graham/Greenlee Champion for Young Children.

The award is given to local champions who actively volunteer their time to raise public awareness of the importance of early childhood development and health. Champions spend a significant amount of time volunteering with FTF and building public awareness about the importance of early childhood issues. 

Peterson provides local early childhood resource guides giving families in his courtroom access to information about housing, food banks, education, safety and health services.  He also hands out FTF-sponsored children’s books along with information on the importance of reading to young children to families with young children who spend time in his courtroom. Recently, Peterson made arrangements to “light the courthouse blue” in April to highlight the importance of child abuse awareness.

We recently caught up with Peterson.

Question: Why do you feel early childhood development and health is important?

Answer: The good majority of a person’s life trajectory is set within the first few years of their life.  If a child is loved, nurtured and cared for when he or she is young, the likelihood of a well-adjusted adolescence and adulthood is much greater.  If a child has a true sense of his or her infinite potential, there is no limit on what that child can accomplish throughout their life.         

Question: How do you suggest other people in your community get involved?

Answer: Start by having at least one meal together as a family each day.  Make it an absolute priority.  There is overwhelming evidence that demonstrates that families that consistently spend at least that time each day together have significantly higher instances of happier, healthier and more successful children. The following two articles are instructive: The magic of the family meal and Why families who eat together are healthier.

Recognize that the most important thing that you can do as a parent is to show your children how much you love their other parent.  This is especially true if the parents are no longer in a relationship with each other. 

Talk with your children and other young people with whom you may have contact about the perils of substance abuse.  It is never too early to start.  One of the most agonizing things about being a judge is to witness firsthand the devastation that substance abuse has upon people’s lives.  Every day I see people who are intelligent and capable who are shortchanging their lives due to the limits that they place upon their potential to be their highest and best selves.  Substance abuse invariably leads to misery.

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