Looking back on 10 years of dedication, Steve Nash, a retired NBA All-Star and two-time NBA MVP, tells us about his commitment to early education.

Mediaplanet: Why is early education so important to you?

Steve Nash: My twin daughters were babies when we started supporting early childhood education, first collaborating to create Educare Arizona and going on to work with First Five Years Fund and Thirty Million Words. The first years of life and learning are this incredibly impactful moment in a person’s future, and we have too much to gain to let any child grow without giving them everything they need to develop their neuro, physical and social-emotional health when it matters most.

MP: What is one thing you would’ve changed about your early education?

SN: I was a lucky kid, in a community that understood, instinctively maybe, that kids need individualized attention and nurture. My siblings and I were read, made faces, played, talked and interacted with in a way that likely drove development of my curiosity, and a sense of security that enabled it. That’s something that I’ve really tried to carry into my own parenting. Babies don’t need fancy toys as much as they need us—talking and engaging with them in a very tuned-in, purposeful way. Their ability to love and care will be paramount across all aspects of their life, as it’s emerged in all settings.

MP: What challenges have you seen in educational settings, especially in underserved communities?

SN: Two primary hurdles: a lack of understanding of the critical nature of the first years, and a lack of investment in them. And I think both are changing, the latter as a direct result of the former. Polls show that the majority of voters believe in prioritizing early education. But there remain lawmakers who are myopic in their view of pre-K, teachers paid far below the value of their contribution and kids in low-income neighborhoods labeled “at-risk” instead of recognized for their potential. Kids are our most valuable resource. We have to see the role of every single child in our future and commit to maximizing the potential of all kids and families.

REBOUNDING SCHOOLING: With the challanges of ensuring adequate education for all communities, Nash is working to prioritize and advocate for early education, which so many voters have begun to stand behind. Photos: Educare Arizona

MP: What are the most important steps in moving forward to enhance the education of our youth?

SN: Supporting research that seeks to understand how kids learn, what they need and following it, implementing what we know. Smart allocation of resources matters, and investing in quality early childhood program—especially in underserved communities—works. The data shows us that a better start reaches beyond the educational outcome of the individual child, improving our workforce, economic and community health. Spending without attention to quality, or spending trying to catch up later lacks the efficacy of high-quality programs like Educare. We have to empower kids to dream, to aspire to being contributors in the world and investing in them early is part of that.

MP: What do you hope the future holds for your children as well as the children who are involved with the Steve Nash Foundation?

SN: A world in which each are valued and appreciated for their diversity of experience, and what that experience contributes, and presented equal opportunity and access. Children in low-income populations aren’t any less deserving of high-quality resources. So I’d love to see more people supporting—in whatever way you can—an increase in availability of programs that amplify best practices for infants, toddlers, preschoolers and their families.

We don’t live in isolation from each other; we’re all interconnected. Each of us has a role in changing our collective potential. This is an all-in moment, and I hope the future holds us all in it, together, accountable to and ultimately enjoying a future created by happy, healthy and successful kids.