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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.

Katherine Cohen is Tohono O’odham Nation’s 2018 Champion for Young Children

Katherine Cohen

Katherine Cohen has been selected as the 2018 Tohono O’odham Nation’s First Things First 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.

Cohen engaged in awareness-raising efforts such as:

  • Leading several projects including revitalizing the aesthetic of the pediatric clinic to make it more “kid friendly” and reduce trauma related to doctor’s visits, organizing a book and furniture drive to create a designated children’s reading corner in the waiting room and creating a library of health promotion resources and information for families of young children that includes items provided by First Things First.
  • Coordinating Tohono O’odham Nation Health Care’s Reach Out and Read (ROAR) program, since December 2017. In her first month, she obtained donations and funding for more than 1,000 books to be distributed to children at all four TONHC clinics.

We recently caught up with Cohen, who is the Pediatric Nurse Team Lead for Tohono O’odham Nation Health Care at Sells Hospital.

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

Answer: I really believe that children are our future, so if you’re going to invest in just one thing, investing in children is worth it. The reason I love being a pediatric nurse and why I’m so passionate is because when I used to work with adults I would see a lot of situations I couldn’t change, it was like putting band aids on things that can’t be helped. Now working with children there is an opportunity for prevention by educating parents how to raise healthy children and to ensure that these things don’t happen. That is why I wanted to be a nurse, to help people live healthy and not prolong suffering by trying to fix something when it’s too late.

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

Answer: For parents I would say know your resources and ask questions, whether it’s Head Start, here at the hospital or the Family Resource Center at the school. For people who aren’t parents, donating books or their time to volunteer for the Reach Out and Read Program, which is a nonprofit organization that gives young children a foundation for success by incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging families to read aloud together. I would say that finding out your resources is also important because if you notice there is something in your community that is missing but you don’t have the skills to do something about it, find out who can. I sometimes think people get stuck on the problem or need, but they’re not always focused on the solution.

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