By Brian Powell
The success of young children has been a passion for Marie Raymond through a career that has taken her from the Rhode Island Philharmonic to the cities of Scottsdale, Mesa, and Tempe.
Raymond, a Flinn-Brown Fellow, oversees education and senior services for the city of Tempe as human services manager and is active on the national, state, regional, and local levels promoting early childhood education.
“I’ve always been fascinated with early brain development and how important those early years are for someone’s future life,” Raymond says. “I’ve always had an education focus and have felt strongly about equitable access to opportunities. That has driven my work for my whole life.”
Tempe Preschool Resource Expansion
Raymond’s office oversees Tempe Preschool Resource Expansion, or Tempe PRE, a two-year pilot program running through June 2019 to offer preschool at no cost to about 360 children from low-income families.
Tempe has invested $6 million over two years to fund 20 Pre-K classrooms in local elementary schools in high poverty areas. The city’s intent is to provide preschool access to families who otherwise would be unable to afford the out-of-pocket expense. Preschool is optional in Arizona and is not funded by the state.
“When we call parents to say they got in, we have people crying on the phone. They’ll say, ‘You have no idea how much this means to me,’” Raymond says.
Tempe PRE is receiving support for research and evaluation from First Things First, the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, and Helios Education Foundation. The research team will track the preschool students through third grade to measure the program’s impact.
Senior Programs and More
Raymond’s office also manages Tempe’s participation in a program that matches older adults with grade-school children at risk of not reaching their reading benchmarks, as well as workshops for college and career planning and internships.
Also on the elder end of the age spectrum, Raymond oversees the Cahill Senior Center and promotes Dementia Friendly Tempe, working with Banner Alzheimer’s Institute to provide weekly programs for family members and caregivers while ensuring city facilities are dementia-friendly.
Beyond her role with the city of Tempe, Raymond is a member of the National League of Cities Early Childhood Network, an initiative to promote an early-learning nation. And she is active with the Arizona Business and Education Coalition, Opportunities for Youth Council, and the East Valley Partnership’s education and business committee.
She served on the First Things First East Maricopa Region council—one of 28 statewide—from 2010 through June 2018, including the last two years as chair. The mission of First Things First, which was created by Arizona voters in 2006, is to support the healthy development and learning of Arizona’s children from birth to age 5.
The Flinn-Brown Civic Leadership Academy, which is currently seeking applicants for its 2019 cohort, is a unique source of learning about and experience with public policy, state politics, and networks and includes intense seminars, continuing education, and a formal Network.
“It’s so helpful to see where you fit in the big picture,” Raymond says. “I often see things from the city perspective but appreciate knowing how we sit within the statewide landscape.
“Now, when I go into meetings and certain topics are brought up, I feel much more informed,” she adds.
Raymond says the connections she made through the Flinn-Brown Network, both personal and professionally, have been invaluable. The growing Flinn-Brown Network now boasts more than 300 members who have participated in Flinn-Brown since it was launched in 2011.
Raymond says she is currently working to be appointed to a variety of state boards or commissions, which is one of Flinn-Brown’s targeted state-level public-service destinations. Others include serving as an elected official, state-level policy advisor, state agency or university executive, or statewide-organization executive.
“I’ve always seen myself as an advocate and I would love to be engaged as much as possible,” Raymond says. “I’m looking for boards that I could contribute to and that could benefit from my skillset.”
Raymond, who has more than 15 years of city-government experience, has worked for the city of Tempe since 2015. She previously worked for the city of Scottsdale as an early-learning coordinator, which included supporting the Scottsdale Public Library’s early-literacy programs and services, and the city of Mesa’s Arizona Museum for Youth.
Before moving to Arizona, Raymond spent more than 14 years as educational-outreach coordinator, early-childhood coordinator, and Suzuki piano instructor at the Rhode Island Philharmonic. In those roles, she drew on her bachelor’s degree in music and French from Providence College and a Master of Arts in Teaching in early childhood, elementary, and special education from Rhode Island College.
The Arizona Center for Civic Leadership at the Flinn Foundation in Phoenix is currently seeking applications for the 2019 cohort of the Flinn-Brown Civic Leadership Academy, which will feature 14 seminar sessions between February and early May 2019. The deadline to apply is Nov. 12.