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Ensuring readiness for college and career begins in early childhood


Courtesy of First Things First

PHOENIX – As we recognize Veteran’s Day this month, we can begin building in our young children an appreciation of our nation’s veterans and their service to our country.

In addition to modeling to young children how to show gratitude to veterans for their service, families of young children can play a crucial role in the future of our nation’s military. According to a national organization made of retired top military leaders, 71 percent of today’s young adults cannot join the military due to problems including education, obesity, crime and drug abuse.

Mission: Readiness is comprised of more than 600 retired admirals, generals and top military leaders who advocate for high-quality early childhood experiences, including parent coaching and early education, to build a foundation for long-term success.

​The nonpartisan organization Council for a Strong America recently released a Citizen-Readiness Index that graded states on whether their young adults possess the necessary skills to contribute to a strong citizenry. Arizona earned a "D" based on the large number of young adults who are unprepared for the workforce, involved in crime, or unqualified for the military.

Ensuring readiness for college and career begins in early childhood. First Things First is doing its part to help Arizona’s young kids be ready for success in kindergarten and beyond through high quality early childhood experiences.

Research shows that 90 percent of a child’s brain develops before age 5. Critical skills like motivation, self-discipline, focus and self-esteem begin to take root from birth. Ensuring that children have high-quality experiences during these critical early years has tremendous impact on kids and their communities.

Army veteran Alan Blume of Chandler said he witnessed today's military young adults decline in communication skills, physical fitness, respect and discipline.

“As a non-commissioned officer,  I observed mission readiness become affected by the shortcoming in recruitment of qualified personnel,” Blume said. “I feel this is a direct relation to ones upbringing and early childhood education experience.”

The father of three, including two young kids under age 5, said parents have the power to enhance their children's lives significantly by providing for them at an early age.

“Our youth’s mission readiness is critical to our national security,” Blume said.

Children who are prepared for kindergarten are more likely to do well in school and graduate from high school. As adults, they tend to be healthier and earn more. They also are less likely to become part of the criminal justice system or the welfare system. These are all things that retired generals and admirals point to as strengthening national security by ensuring kids stay in school, stay fit and stay out of trouble.

It is crucial young kids receive support from family and their community, so whether you have a child 5 and younger in your life or not – investing time, energy and resources in helping kids arrive at kindergarten prepared to be successful is not only right, it’s smart. Here are just a few ways that we can make a difference in their future – and ours.

  • Spend Time with Young Children – Talk, play, sing and read with the young kids in your life every chance you get.
  • Work With Young Kids – Not interested in early childhood as a career? Consider volunteering with community organizations that work with children 5 and younger and their families.
  • Be A Voice for Children –Help build awareness of the importance of early childhood and what can be done to promote school readiness for all children. Visit to learn more and share early childhood information with your personal and professional contacts.