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Executive knows early childhood is serious business

First Things First is celebrating the commitment of nearly 50 volunteers who have served on a regional partnership council for a decade.

Earlier this month, we introduced you to some of these 10-year FTF volunteers from different regions throughout Arizona. Each profile is followed by a complete list of the members in that regional area who have served for 10 years. Regardless of their location or affiliations, these individuals share one common trait: they are passionate about improving the lives of young children in their communities. They are true champions for children.

Please read about FTF Phoenix North Regional Council member Connie Robinson:

Connie Robinson knows that success in the board room doesn’t start in the classroom; it starts in the hospital room.

“Children who have access to high quality experiences starting at birth are going to be more successful in school, and that really impacts their options in terms of employment and long-term success,” Robinson said.

She should know; she has spent more than 20 years as a human resources executive and consultant.

“Kids who are successful from the start are not just more knowledgeable; they have the skills that are going to make them more viable job candidates because they are more well-rounded,” she said.

Early childhood impacts the current workforce, too, she said. “Businesses that support working parents through policies like family leave, child care and health benefits not only have a more stable workforce, they have more productive employees,” Robinson said.

This is the kind of expertise Robinson brings to her work as the business representative on the FTF Phoenix North Regional Partnership Council.

“It’s not always obvious for people to see how the lack of access to resources starting at a young age impacts a child’s opportunities, but it really does,” Robinson said. “That’s why it’s so important that we continue to build on efforts like First Things First.”

Robinson said she was drawn to First Things First because of the organization’s mission to expand opportunities for all young children in Arizona.

“We’re not there yet; there are never enough resources, and there are communities where we still need to build more trust. And the early childhood system faces the same challenges as others when to comes to ensuring cultural responsivity in its programs,” Robinson said.

Robinson sees her service on the regional council as an opportunity to be a voice for her community.

“The diversity of our members gives everyone a seat at the table; it allows us to provide services to individuals and communities we can reach now, but also gives us the platform from which to continue advocating for continuous improvement and innovation,” she said.

After 10 years, including two terms as vice chair of her council, Robinson has seen improvement in the services available in communities and in efforts to reach those most at risk.

“Seeing the progress is really rewarding; it’s what keeps many of us committed to the work of First Things First,” she said.

“When kids are healthy and whole; when they know they matter; when parents know that they have the right tools in order to support and prepare their children better, when kids are being fed and educated – the script changes; their perspective on life is completely altered,” Robinson continued. “Sometimes, it’s hard to explain to decision-makers the enormity of the impact these opportunities can have in communities where young children don’t have access to them, but we must keep trying.”

She said the business community, in particular, can have great impact.

“Businesses are looking for ways to incentivize employees, to give them better work-life balance and build a culture of support,” Robinson said. “That can start with better supporting families – the ones who work for them, and the ones that are raising the workforce of tomorrow. We can pilot innovative approaches and make the case for expansion. That’s how we build the economy and the state we all want.”

10 years of service
FTF Phoenix Regional  Area

Gila River Indian Community Region

Dale Enos

Priscilla Foote

Melissa Madrid

Phoenix North Region

Connie Robinson

Phoenix South Region

Dr. Patricia Merk

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