Shaandiin P. Parrish, Miss Navajo Nation 2019-2021, has been selected as the 2021 First Things First Navajo Nation Region 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.
Parrish moderated the Early Childhood Speaker Series, a virtual forum in partnership with Navajo Project Indigenous LAUNCH and the FTF Navajo Nation Regional Partnership Council. The virtual forum was designed to give parents and caregivers of young children an opportunity to increase their awareness of relevant early childhood topics. Parrish served as moderator as a regional expert discussed home visitation and early intervention strategies during this series.
Parrish also distributes parenting information, such as family guides at her parenting programs so families are aware of essential services available to them. As Miss Navajo Nation 2019-2021, she has also handed out FTF-sponsored children’s books and bookmarks with the brain development information during the early literacy component to her parenting program.
We recently caught up with Parrish.
Question: Why do you feel early childhood development and health is important?
Answer: Early childhood development and health is the key to a stable future for our societies and is pertinent part of maintaining our cultures. Our children are our future leaders and we need to help them develop a strong sense of self, problem-solving skills, an understanding of their place in our communities, and literacy. Making an investment of time and resources in our children is an investment in our future.
Question: How do you suggest other people in your community get involved?
Answer: The global COVID-19 pandemic has definitely limited our public interaction, but here on the Navajo Nation we believe that learning begins within the home. I would encourage our parents, grandparents, caregivers and guardians to do their best to spend time with their children safely and often. Providing extra attention to our children will provide the stability they need during these unprecedented times. Another way we can connect with one another is through online resources. As Miss Navajo Nation, I have taken it upon myself to read to our children through YouTube videos. If you need someone to read to your children, I can! Another great resources is the First Things First website, it has factual information to support your pursuit in supporting your children. Whatever you do, don’t give up. We believe in you!