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Wed, Oct. 23

First Things First program seeks to educate kids at early ages

As Shelby Blake, 4, gave Deputy Do-Right a hug Thursday at the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office, Claire Louge of First Things First spoke about how the high-quality early childhood education that Shelby takes part in will help her succeed in school and later in life.

"We know that about 90 percent of a child's brain is developed by age 5," said Louge, community outreach coordinator for First Things First. "A national study showed that children who have quality early education are 70 percent less likely to commit a violent crime by age 18. Experiences children have in their early years really matter because brain connections made at this time lay the foundation for their lifetime."

First Things First, a statewide organization that works with parents and families to ensure children are healthy and ready to succeed when they enter kindergarten, is partnering with community members like the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office to spread the word about the importance of supporting health and education for young children, Louge said.

"We are very concerned about young children in our community," Sheriff Scott Mascher said. "The Right-by-Kids program is very positive and proactive in our community with Deputy Do-Right visiting schools to present safety messages in a fun, engaging way. We believe it's a win-win situation for our community as a whole."

Louge said that 500 people in Yavapai County have already signed up to be Champions for Children, noting that people who would like to join can call 928-776-0062 to do so.

First Things First has provided more than $3.6 million to fund programs such as parenting classes, home-based programs, a resource guide for parents with young children, and health consultations for childcare centers in Yavapai County. For more information, visit www.azftf.gov.

YCSO Law Enforcement Education Deputy Scott Reed said the Right-by-Kids program focuses on teaching children through third grade safe ways to deal with strangers, bullies, drugs and guns with a format featuring Deputy Do-Right, magic, music and puppetry.

The program also has age-appropriate 30-minute-long presentations for preschool-age children.

"We know the kids retain what they learn because fifth- and sixth-graders will run up to hug Deputy Do-Right and tell him, 'You win or lose by the way you choose,'" Reed said.

"They'll also repeat our gun safety message, so we know they're getting it," said Deputy Rusty San Felice, who is also part of the Right-by-Kids program.

Reed noted they have done some recent programs at the YMCA, Scout groups, camps, and Deputy Do-Right will be in the Prescott Frontier Days parade July 2. Anyone interested in scheduling a Right by Kids presentation should call 928-771-3260 for available dates.

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