Originally Published: August 16, 2015 6 a.m.
PRESCOTT - Gov. Doug Ducey appointed Gerald Szostak, Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Arizona, as a board member for First Things First.
Szostak, a Prescott resident, has 15 years of experience in youth development and replaces former First Things First board member Steve Lynn, who retired earlier this year.
"We are pleased to welcome Gerald to the board," Chairwoman Janice Decker said. "I'm sure his insight - as a nonprofit executive, as a champion of children, and a resident of rural Arizona - will be beneficial to our board and staff."
First Things First is a voter-created, statewide organization that funds early education and health programs to strengthen families and help kids be successful once they enter kindergarten.
Recommendations for which programs are funded are made to the board by local councils composed of community volunteers. The board is charged with setting statewide priorities and ensuring that programs funded by the regional councils lead to improved outcomes for Arizona children 5 and younger.
"It's not just a question of academics; kids arrive at kindergarten without the critical social-emotional skills that are so crucial for success - like self-control, working well with others and sharing," Szostak said. "When you consider that 90 percent of a child's critical brain development happens by age 5, the early years are our best opportunity to level the playing field and give every child the tools they need to be successful in kindergarten and beyond."
He added that he looks at his work on the FTF Board as an opportunity to build awareness of the importance of the early years to later success.
"When we talk about improving outcomes for our kids, we often focus on the K-12 system and remediation," he said. "I'm proud to be part of an organization that is working to build awareness that efforts to improve education need to start much earlier and that all facets of our community need to be involved."