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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.

Gloria Pliego is the 2021 Santa Cruz Region Champion

headshot of Gloria Pliego

Gloria Pliego has been selected as the 2021 First Things First Santa Cruz Region Champion for Young Children.

The award is given to local champions who actively volunteer their time to raise public awareness of the importance of early childhood development and health. Champions spend a significant amount of time volunteering with FTF and building public awareness about the importance of early childhood issues.

Pliego is the director of Rain Forest Montessori Preschool & Daycare Center in Nogales. Her child care center was the only one in the FTF Santa Cruz Region to keep its doors open at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. She made the decision to be available to serve the families of frontline and essential workers who needed child care. Pliego eventually extended the regular operating hours of the center to provide child care later in the day for the families of essential workers.

Pliego also had her staff trained in the Ages and Stages questionnaire, which can help families know if their child is meeting typical developmental milestones — the things most children can do by a certain age. How their child plays, learns, speaks, acts and moves offers important clues in their development.

We recently caught up with Pliego.

Question: Why do you feel early childhood development and health is important? Answer: I believe early childhood development and health is important because children who learn early in life to believe in their own abilities and take pride in their independence, will be well equipped for lifelong success. Healthy development in the early years provides a foundation for their future.

Question: How do you suggest other people in your community get involved? Answer: As parents and teachers, we should provide our children/family with strong foundations and skills that will one day enable them to become a respectable addition to our future.

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