WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - First Things First(FTF) delivered a check for $4,224,297 to help kids birth to 5 in the Navajo Nation region prepare for the high expectations they face when they enter kindergarten.
"Every child deserves the opportunity to be successful in school and in life," said Vivian Saunders, the FTF state board member who presented the symbolic check. "These funds help local communities provide the education and health programs that ensure kids will be prepared when they enter kindergarten."
The stakes have never been higher. Under a new state law implemented last year, kids who are not reading well enough by the end of third grade will be held back. The law applies to kids who will be in third grade during the 2013-2014 school year (current kindergarteners and first graders).
FTF funds education and health programs that give kids the tools they need for success in school and beyond, including developing language and early literacy, said Vikki Shirley, chair of the local FTF regional partnership council.
Among the early education and health programs funded locally through First Things First are:
Improving the quality of early education services in child care centers and homes for more than 400 children.
Scholarships to help 50 children per month access early education services.
Providing 85 young children stronger, more supportive relationships with their parents through voluntary, in-home services on a variety of topics, including parenting skills, early childhood development, and literacy.
Last week's event, held at the Navajo Nation Museum, included community leaders representing the Navajo Nation government, higher education, health and early childhood services. Navajo Nation Vice President Rex Lee Jim was on hand to provide the opening remarks. After watching Jaycelyn Tallsalt, Miss Tuba City Primary School 2011-2012, perform the National Anthem and Wizard of Oz classic "Over the Rainbow," Jim said, "You know there's hope for the future of the nation when our young children can sing in Navajo."
Kristen Coaty, who receives FTF funds to provide the food security service, said she has seen first-hand how these monies help prepare kids for school.
"Most of a child's brain development happens in the first five years," Coaty said. "They need to have the proper food and nutrition during this time to foster their brain development, so they can start school ready."
The check presented will fund services from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013. The regional council will work with community stakeholders for the next three months on a plan to build on the early childhood services already funded in the region and to address other needs of young children in the area.
To learn more about your local regional council and the early childhood services funded by FTF in the Navajo Nation region, please visit: www.ftf.gov/navajonation.
Below please find a list of First Things First grantees receiving FTF-funded services who are available for media interviews.
Kristen Coaty Tsehootsoi Medical Center Fort Defiance, AZ Phone: 928-729-8489 Early childhood service provided: Food Security (Food vouchers and backpacks)
Diane Lenz Nihiyazhi Ba'iit'ih Home Visitation Flagstaff, AZ Phone: 928-523-7040 Early childhood service provided: Home Visitation
About First Things First - First Things First is a voter-created, statewide organization that funds early education and health programs to help kids be successful once they enter kindergarten. Decisions about how those funds are spent are made by local councils staffed by community volunteers. To learn more, visit azftf.gov.