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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.

Maria Elena Ochoa is the 2022 Pinal Champion

Maria Elena Ochoa has been selected as the 2022 First Things First Pinal 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.

Ochoa, who is the deputy director at Against Abuse, Inc., was instrumental in partnering with FTF to purchase items to go into at home kits, which were distributed to agencies for use with their families who have young children. Ochoa also used FTF’s early childhood slide show to display throughout Pinal County on Atmosphere TV. The information was viewed several thousand times.

We recently caught up with Ochoa.

Question: Why did you choose to show your support for young children and families?

Answer: So many children experience so much trauma. My work at Against Abuse Inc., where we serve survivors of domestic and/or sexual violence and trafficking, has shown me that almost half of the people we serve are children.

Question: Your actions make early childhood a priority. What inspires you to do that work?

Answer: I’ve learned that among mothers and their children experiencing homelessness, most of them have experienced domestic violence; knowing this creates a hot spark in my core to do something, anything, to make a change for the better.


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