After nearly one year as director of the First Things First Santa Cruz Regional Partnership Council, Aaliyah Samuel has been tapped as senior director for family support and literacy for FTF.

“I see this as a position where I can have more input” statewide regarding family support and early childhood language and literacy development, she said.

The promotion means Samuel will be leaving the local area for Phoenix.

Erin Lyons, FTF senior regional director, was scheduled to begin reviewing resumes this week to fill the vacancy in Nogales, but the job will be posted on the website until filled.

Samuel said she hopes to see someone take over who is passionate about the First Thing’s First mission and about the community. Passed by voter initiative in 2006, First Things First operates through a tax on tobacco products. Governed by a state board it engages diverse constituencies to accomplish its mission.

Samuel reached out to several local agencies and businesses for the “First Things First Celebrates the Young Child” in April, highlighting early childhood and health resources in Santa Cruz County. It was the first program of its kind and drew more than 100 families.

“We wanted to bring all the different agencies that work with families under one roof,” Samuel said. “A lot of support is offered to families by these agencies, but they are all segregated. We wanted them to know what is out in the community and how they can work together to help strengthen their family.”

She said she hopes to see her successor continue with the program, and offered to help whoever is chosen as much as possible from her new Phoenix office. She also vowed to attend the event next year.

Karen M. Woodhouse, FTF chief program officer, said, “Dr. Samuel’s leadership experience and her work with families with young children are indeed assets for FTF and for continuing our work (going) forward with partners to support families so that all kids in Arizona enter school ready for success.”

Samuel was an elementary school site-based administrator in both the Tucson Unified School District and Hillsborough County Schools in Tampa, Fla. She is bilingual in English and Spanish, and her doctoral research was on the awareness and support level of parents providing reading support at home.

First Things First targets children 5 and under, offering early-childhood development and health programs to improve their odds of succeeding in school and ultimately, in life.

The organization cites national studies showing that children who are exposed to quality early-childhood education are 40 percent less likely to need special education or be retained; 70 percent less likely to commit a violent crime by age 18; have better language, math and social skills and better relationships with classmates; have better cognitive and sensory skills and experience less anxiety; and score higher on school-readiness tests.