“To increase the quality of, and access to, the early childhood development and health system that ensures a child entering school comes healthy and ready to succeed.”
First Things First, Mission statement
At a Council meeting on November 16, First Things First (FTF) presented the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community with one of the largest funding amounts awarded by the organization this year of, $319,266 to be allocated to the education of Community children from birth through age 5.
Previous funding from FTF to the Community has allowed the creation and support of numerous programs that have helped Community members, such as the Teen Parenting program at Salt River High School and contributions of diapers, wipes and baby food in the food boxes.
Chris McIntier, who works as the grants and special projects administrator for the Education Department, said that in the next three years the funding from FTF to the Community will be about the same amount.
One huge accomplishment for FTF is providing a new classroom at the Early Childhood Education Center, which has allowed 24 children who were on the waiting list to better prepare for kindergarten. The FTF funds hired one teacher and two teacher assistants for this classroom. The funds also purchased tables, chairs, costumes and other classroom supplies.
At the Council meeting, Andrea Stepp, a grandmother whose grandson now attends this class, said, “This classroom is real essential for my grandson. He speaks better and is well behaved. It has made him more aware of everything, and I appreciate the teachers and the helpers.”
FTF funds will also help support work on a book to help young students to learn the O’odham and Piipaash language.
Classroom teacher Lisa Reynolds said that she sees the children learning social skills as they play games and relate to each other, and she sees how the classroom is helping the children expand their language skills.
Reynolds also teaches hygiene; after breakfast and lunch, the kids brush their teeth.
The FTF funding also has helped establish a summertime pre-kindergarten class. McIntier said that last summer well over 30 children attended.
FTF was approved by Arizona voters in 2006 through the tobacco tax to help provide funding for early childhood development and health. However, because of budget cuts, FTF was in danger of losing its funding, but voters came through and voted to continue the FTF funding.