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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.

Susan Pace is Pima South’s 2017 Champion for Young Children

Susan Pace has been selected as the 2017 Pima South First Things First 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.

This past year Pace engaged in awareness raising efforts such as:

  • Helping to facilitate multiple First Things First presentations to leadership at the Green Valley/ Sahuarita Chamber of Commerce.
  • Speaking to Chamber members about the importance of the early years.
  • Facilitating a formal partnership between FTF and the Green Valley/Sahuarita Chamber of Commerce and their Foundation, as well as the Sahuarita and Continental School Districts, Sahuarita Town Council, Mayor and City Manager, plus the United Way resulting in a collaborative event called Early Childhood Education: Today’s Investment for Our Future.
  • Inviting more than 30 businesses, civic groups and faith based organizations in the Pima South region to connect to the importance of the early years and resources in the community.
  • Speaking to leaders from the area school districts, elected officials and legislative representatives and recruited partners, volunteers about the broader mission of early childhood.

We recently caught up with Pace, who lives in the Green Valley/Sahuarita community:

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

Answer: Birth to age five is the most important time in a child’s life as 90 percent of critical brain development occurs during that period. If the opportunity is missed, a child will not progress as much as a child in a quality early childhood education program and may never catch up. What happens in a child’s early years lays the foundation for a lifetime.

Q: What caused you to get involved in efforts to increase public awareness in early childhood issues?

A: Too many people do not realize the importance and absolute necessity for every child to attend a quality early childhood education program. Every dollar invested in early childhood yields a $16 return on investment. Not only is this a smart investment, it also produces great gains by increasing kindergarten readiness, high school graduation, college admissions, personal income and economic development. Also important, investing in early childhood education decreases the need for special education/remediation, children being held back, dependence on social welfare plus reduces crime related costs and incarceration rates. Children exposed to quality early education are 70 percent less likely to commit a violent crime by age 18.

Q: Why do you feel building awareness in early childhood and developmental health is so important for families and communities?

A: It is important to make the public aware of new brain development research, educational breakthroughs as well as what happens to children not involved in a quality early education program. It is essential that we invest in our children, who are America’s most important natural resource and the future of our society. We must ensure that all youngsters are healthy, educated and given the best opportunity to succeed in life. Our investment in children will make this country better, stronger and able to secure future economic strength locally as well as across the state and nation.

Q: How have you seen awareness for the early years change in your community?

A: A year and an half ago, a high percentage of people in our community knew nothing about First Things First, its purpose, goals, success stories and the importance of quality early childhood education. I am thrilled to say that thanks to the Green Valley/Sahuarita Chamber of Commerce, the Sahuarita and Continental school districts, Sahuarita Town Council, Mayor and City Manager, United Way, local businesses, civic organizations and volunteers have helped make our community aware of the importance of quality early childhood education and First Things First’s efforts to ensure that every young child has the opportunity to arrive at kindergarten healthy and ready to succeed.

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

A: The First Things First website,, provides a great deal of excellent information and suggests ways in which individuals and groups may get involved. They also offer kits to expectant parents, which provide information that will help infants learn and develop skills. Call the FTF Regional Office 520-628-6650 to learn about upcoming events and workshops. Visit your area’s FTF Regional Partnership Council meeting to see how they operate and learn the strategies they have adopted. Volunteers are always needed to serve on the Council or as a FTF Champion helping to share our message with others. Volunteers are always welcome at a local early childhood education center, which can be in a school district, a church or independent.

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