First Things First selects new CEO

PHOENIX – Marilee Dal Pra has been selected as chief executive officer for First Things First, overseeing statewide efforts to expand services that enhance school readiness for children birth to 5 years old.

Chief Financial Officer Josh Allen had been serving in the role on an interim basis since May, when Sam Leyvas left to join Stand Together, a Washington, D.C.-based philanthropic organization.

First Things First was created by Arizona voters to enhance or expand early childhood programs that help children birth to 5 years old arrive at kindergarten prepared to succeed.

Over the past nine years, the organization – through its volunteer regional councils statewide – has invested in strategies that have strengthened families in their role as their child’s first teachers; improved the quality of early learning for 68,000 children statewide; and ensured preventive health care such as developmental and sensory screenings for thousands of infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

First Things First is at a crucial stage in its development, having implemented or expanded programs that have made a difference in the health and education of thousands of young children across the state, Chairwoman Nadine Mathis Basha said.

“Now, it’s time to leverage those successes and engage more non-traditional partners in this critical work so that every child in Arizona has the opportunity to start school ready to be successful. Over the past 30 years, Marilee has built an impressive combination of skills and relationships – spanning government, business and philanthropy – that can help us do just that,” Basha said.

Dal Pra currently serves as vice president for programs at Virginia Piper Charitable Trust, where she oversees community initiatives and strategic program development. She is a driving force behind efforts such as Read On Arizona, the state’s third-grade reading initiative, and BUILD, a multi-state partnership that supports early childhood systems (now the work of the Arizona Early Childhood Alliance).