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Region Stories

These stories illustrate how early childhood programs and services funded by First Things First make a difference for young children and families in communities across Arizona.

Abilene Burnette is the 2020 White Mountain Apache Tribe Region Champion

Abilene Burnett

Abilene Burnette has been selected as the 2020 First Things First White Mountain Apache Tribe Region Champion for Young Children.

The award is given to local champions 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.

Burnette regularly shares early childhood materials, including age-appropriate books and bookmarks with brain development information at all Child Find events and at WIC offices in Whiteriver and Cibecue. She shares materials in both English and Apache.

Burnette also has radio talk shows on the local radio station, KNNB, for 30 minutes at least once a month with listenership of over 12,000. She shares WMAT Child Find information and early childhood information from the FTF website. In December 2019, she invited the FTF White Mountain Apache Tribe regional director to share information on developmental screenings.

We recently caught up with Burnette, who is a Community Liaison with the White Mountain Apache Tribe Child Find, an early intervention program designed to serve Apache children with developmental concerns, birth to age 5, living on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation.

Question: Why do you feel early childhood development and health is important?

Answer: Between birth to age 5, the children are doing the most growing up. They are learning so much and their brains are developing the most. It is important that children are healthy so they are capable of learning all they are taught. Their hearing, vision, speech and mobility need to be checked to make sure the kids are healthy. Anything that we can assist with while the children’s brains are developing the most is what we should focus on.

Question: How do you suggest other people in your community get involved?

Answer: I would love it if people would take advantage of any services that are available to all children birth to age 5. Even if it is developmental screenings completed, receiving information on how to help children and how to help the family. Get the little children glasses, their ear wax cleaned out, ear tubes if needed, dental exams regularly, and speech therapy. As parents, grandparents and caregivers we should listen to children, read to them, be active with children and give them quality time. To new parents, WMAT Child Find offers so many services and information that is available. Ask for help. We are here to help step by step. All these programs and services are available and parents should take advantage of it.

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