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FTF Graham/Greenlee Champion wants community to see how early childhood resonates into adulthood


Susan Elsberry spent years researching artificial intelligence during her career as a manufacturing engineer, but it wasn’t until she became a mother did she realize that her work in training adults actually had its roots in early childhood development.

“The mental, physical and emotional nurturing of a baby provides the best platform for later success in life,” Elsberry said. “Activities and support for children birth to age 5 can often set patterns and learned behaviors and responses that may strongly influence the health, social connection and rationale for improved citizenry. Making better choices should be a life goal for us all.”

Elsberry, who is retired, now spends her days as a volunteer with the Safford Women’s Club, Southeast Arizona Clean and Beautiful and other organizations.

She was recently selected as the 2018 First Things First Graham/Greenlee Champion for Young Children. Every year, FTF honors early childhood champions throughout Arizona 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.

Through her role as a champion, Elsberry has provided early childhood training to Graham County Sheriff Preston Allred at the new county detention facility and distributed “Child Care Kits” for deputies to carry in their patrol cars. These Child Care Kits contain a stuffed animal, children’s book and parent information. The kits are distributed to children when they come in contact with deputies at accident scenes, or in domestic violence situations.

“You must live a life that shows you are paying attention to all the children you encounter, not just the children you know,” she said. “That leads you to meeting more people and hearing their stories.”

It’s that deep knowledge of the community that helps her share the importance of early childhood and allows it to resonate to the different groups she speaks with.

“Sharing a meaningful message leads to logical involvement with both those in need and those able to help,” Elsberry said. “There is no greater challenge or reward to helping raise a heathy, happy, well-adjusted child prepared for the world they will inhabit and ultimately be responsible for.”

Elsberry is one of about two dozen champions who will be recognized at the First Things First Early Childhood Summit in August. The summit brings together professionals, stakeholders and supporters of early childhood education and health to share innovative strategies, research and best practices that help kids be ready for school and set for life.

Stayed tuned for the FTF June eNews, where you can read about other 2018 FTF Champions.

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