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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.

Family resource center helps Gilbert boy build self-esteem and self-discipline skills

Mom smiling and holding her young son who is wearing a striped shirt

Even though she has a successful career, Kat Somers of Gilbert was like many new moms — unsure she had the skills to be the best parent she could be to her son, Carson. Kat and her fiancé , Kevin, decided that it would be beneficial for Somers to stay-at-home with Carson the first year, because they knew the early years were important.

“I knew being a stay-at-home mom was an important role but didn’t realize that I would struggle,” Somers said. “I have older step-children, so I was not used to parenting little minds and expanding their horizons. I needed help learning how to communicate with Carson and parent in effective ways.”

Needing assistance while not working, Somers started participating in Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), who connected her to AZCEND, a family resource center in Gilbert funded by First Things First.

This comprehensive center for families of kids birth to age 5, offers guidance and support for families with young children. The center provides access to resources, referrals to support services and access to educational programs to ensure healthy growth and development for Gilbert’s youngest learners and their families as they grow and thrive together.

When the family first started participating in programs at AZCEND, Somers was concerned because Carson was shy and socially reserved. Somers knew she would return to work and wanted to make sure Carson learned how to communicate to make the transition to child care smooth. With the help of programs offered at the resource center, Somers learned different approaches so that she and her fiancé could help Carson with social skills and also prepare him for kindergarten.

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Somers attended parenting classes on topics such as positive parenting and literacy. The more she learned at the center, the more her concerns were eased about her ability to prepare Carson for child care and his educational future.

“I started from scratch, because I knew nothing about parenting a young child,” Somers said. “These programs helped me to build parenting skills and provided me with meaningful activities that Kevin and I could use at home. I learned that patience, repetition and environment are key.”

Somers and Carson also attended classes together at AZCEND, covering topics such as music, books and sign language, which helped him build critical skills like self-discipline and self-esteem. Carson also learned to communicate his needs and socialize with other children at the center. The book class taught the family to set a nightly book reading routine, and Carson learned to love books and reading.

Somers attributes Carson’s success to the foundation established from the programs at AZCEND. Today, Carson is friendly and extroverted. He’s already developmentally ahead at child care.

“AZCEND not only helped build my confidence as a parent but also my confidence in Carson,” Somers said. “AZCEND brought out Carson’s personality. The first five years are so important and go quickly, and I’m so happy that Kevin and I can give Carson a head start for his future.”

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