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Region Stories

These stories illustrate how early childhood programs and services funded by First Things First make a difference for young children and families in communities across Arizona.

College scholarship helps Pascua Yaqui teacher give her students a strong educational foundation

A​fter working for about a decade as an early childhood teacher at the Pascua Yaqui Head Start, Maria Jones had a decision to make.

New regulations require early childhood teachers to have a bachelor’s degree to continue in the classroom. Jones had earned her child development associate credential years ago and held an associate degree in early childhood education, but the cost of pursuing a bachelor’s degree was daunting. Then she heard about a college scholarship funded by First Things First (FTF).

The FTF Pascua Yaqui Tribe Regional Partnership Council supports professional development opportunities for early childhood educators, including college scholarships. Jones became a recipient of the FTF College Scholarship in 2016.

“It is such an amazing opportunity for people like me who were scared away because of cost, because it gave me a chance to complete my dream,” Jones said.

Jones became interested in early childhood education in high school and volunteered at the Pascua Yaqui Head Start. It was there that she learned how important it was to develop a strong educational foundation during the early years.

After graduating high school, Jones married and moved away, but returned years later with her family. Jones began volunteering again at the Pascua Yaqui Tribe Head Start with the goal of becoming a full-time teacher and earned her credentials.

After a decade of working with young children, Jones will complete her early childhood education degree from Northern Arizona University in December 2017. She intends to continue working for the Pascua Yaqui Head Start to instill a love for learning in her young students.

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