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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.

Adrea Ricke is the 2020 Gila Champion

head shot of Andrea Ricke

Adrea Ricke has been selected as the 2020 First Things First Gila 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.

Ricke, who is the library director for the Globe Public Library, engaged in awareness-raising efforts through a virtual story time geared for young children and their caregivers.  The young children hear stories and are challenged with games and asked to sing along with songs or participate in rhymes.  The virtual story time also contains caregiver tips to encourage caregivers to try different activities with their children at home.  Ricke also distributes family guides, FTF-sponsored children’s books and bookmarks with the brain development information through a drive-thru option at the library.

Ricke understands that many people receive information from social media, so she works to keep early childhood at the forefront of the conversation. She actively shares early childhood information on social media to various local groups to reach a wider audience of caregivers.

We recently caught up with Ricke.

Question: Why do you feel early childhood development and health is important?
Answer: Early childhood development and health is important because early childhood is a critical time for children.  Their young brains are like sponges and are ready to absorb the world around them.  We owe it to our children to help them soak up new experiences and provide them with a safe and healthy environment. Experiences that happen or do not happen during early childhood have a direct impact on children as they get older, and can even affect them through adulthood.  There are many published studies that verify this, so it is extremely important to help parents understand how they can maximize the early childhood time with their children in meaningful ways.

Question: How do you suggest other people in your community get involved?
Answer: One easy way for people in our community to get involved with early childhood activities is by utilizing social media.  For example, I encourage people to visit the Globe Public Library Facebook page, where the library often points caregivers to free trainings provided by different agencies in our region for caregivers.  The Facebook page is easily accessible to families and we regularly share information from the First Things First Facebook page because it is also a tremendous resource. 

Calling the Globe Public Library is another great option.  Even though the doors are closed to the public, we continue to provide books and other materials for both children and parents during designated pick-up times, Monday through Friday.  Libraries and early childhood development go hand in hand.

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