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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 a life-changer for child care provider

woman-headshot-smilingWhen Desiree Lohrenz decided to open a home child care center in Tucson, she wanted it to be the kind of early learning environment that would have a lasting impact on young boys and girls.

While working to obtain certification as a licensed care provider, she came across Quality First, a signature program of First Things First (FTF) that seeks to improve early learning for Arizona’s youngest children.

Lohrenz seized the opportunity for training and tools that Quality First offers through coaching, assessments and incentives that would ultimately benefit the children in her care.

“One of the biggest points in the training in Quality First is meaningful interactions,” Lohrenz said. “It’s not just ‘here’s my classroom, here’s my lesson plan.’ It’s ‘how do we get them to truly understand the lesson? How do we reach each individual child? How do we make learning count for them?'”

She soon learned of Quality First’s professional development program. One part of the FTF program offers college scholarships for educators to take early childhood education classes. She quickly enrolled in Pima Community College and now has an associate degree in early childhood education. She is currently working toward a bachelor’s degree at the University of Arizona. She expects to graduate in May 2018.

“My degree has further increased my understanding and appreciation for differences in young children in every way,” Lohrenz said. “Working with special needs children, I have a better understanding of how to work with children of all backgrounds and abilities.”

She now uses her early childhood education skills in a Quality First preschool in Vail, where her work impacts dozens of children daily.

“You see the children open up,” Lohrenz said. “When you first see them, you don’t know how they’re going to respond to something. You don’t know how they’re going to make that connection. And by the end of it, they’re fully ready for kindergarten.”

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