April 4, 2022

Parents: Be a voice for young kids and families in your Arizona community

By: First Things First

Are you looking for a way to make a difference in the lives of young children and families in your community?

First Things First (FTF) has openings for parents of young children and other volunteers to serve on FTF regional partnership councils across Arizona.

FTF regional councils are responsible for recommending how funds are invested in local early childhood programs and services. They also work together with community partners to help support the healthy development and learning of young children from birth to age 5.

Each regional council is made up of community volunteers, including parents of young children, healthcare professionals, faith, business and tribal representatives and community leaders.

Applicants must live or work in the FTF region to which they are applying.

“Your voice is needed and wanted.”

Each regional council makes decisions based on the specific needs of young children and families in their community. Parents provide vital input.

“I’m not an expert on early childhood. But as the parent of two young girls, I’ve lived early childhood,” said Rebecca Serratos, parent representative on the FTF Yavapai Regional Partnership Council. “Parents are boots on the ground, seeing and hearing firsthand what families are going through in real time.”

“My role as a parent is unique,” said Alexandra Oropeza, who serves on the FTF Southwest Maricopa Regional Partnership Council while “actively raising a 4-year-old and navigating an ever-changing world” for families.

“Having a parent on the council is a great balance of current lived experience with the other seats on the council.”

The council relies on that perspective.

Alexandra Oropeza

“I was a little intimidated when I first joined the council,” Rebecca said. “But the other members help you get over that pretty quickly. They say, ‘We really need to know what you think.’”

Mitzie Warner, parent representative on the FTF East Maricopa Regional Partnership Council, agrees.

“Parent perspective is critical when it comes to making sure your community has the early childhood education resources it needs to thrive. Your voice is needed and wanted.”

“An opportunity to make real change, especially toward equity.”

Many First Things First regional council members have similar reasons for applying to serve — to help more children have the chance for a good start in life.

“I saw it as an opportunity to make real change, especially toward equity. To expand opportunities for kiddos in our area,” Rebecca said. “I hated that my girls were able to get into a high-quality preschool, and experience that kind of early education, when other kids didn’t have a shot at that. That bugged me. So I saw this [serving on the regional council] as a chance to work towards changing some of that.”

Mitzie Warner

Mitzie was motivated by her experience as a parent, too.

“My son was born extremely premature and barely survived. From the start, we had a group of early intervention therapists and educators who helped my child reach his milestones. My experience taught me that a child’s experience directly affects how the brain develops and the long-term impact on learning and health. And I’m happy to say today my son is in kindergarten and thriving!”

“Maybe I could do this…”

You don’t have to be an expert in early childhood to serve on an FTF regional partnership council. All you need is dedication, energy and passion for helping young children and families in your community. And some time — about 10 hours per month.

That might sound like a lot to parents of young children, but your time and energy will be put to good use.

“Being a parent/caregiver to a young child is very overwhelming,” Mitzie said. “I think a lot of parents are in survival mode.”

But she still encourages parents to apply.

“It’s challenging, rewarding and fun,” Mitzie said. “Do it! Our children deserve the investment. Plus, becoming a regional council member is an honor.”

Rebecca Serratos adds that simply asking potential candidates to apply can be an important first step in encouraging someone to get involved.

“Parents with young kids are crazy busy, and this is a rough time, especially if you have multiple kiddos. But when someone asks you to consider it, you might think, ‘Maybe I could do this.’”

Rebecca Serratos

“People who want to make a difference should apply.”

Alexandra Oropeza recognizes both the challenges and the rewards of this volunteer position.

“It is challenging at times, because although we are doing great work, there is still a huge need in the community, which can be disheartening,” she said. “But I love being on the council and serving with others who are also passionate about early childhood and the success of our families. People who want to make a difference should apply.”

So if you or someone you know might be interested in learning more or applying to serve on a First Things First regional partnership council, please visit FirstThingsFirst.org/serve.

This was originally posted on First Things First’s website.