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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.

Quality First center helps Whiteriver toddler prepare for kindergarten

boy-in-churchAudra Cosen of Whiteriver became a single mother to five boys just as her next to youngest son, Ari, turned two.

Cosen, who worked as a full-time teacher in Fort Apache, managed to find child care for her infant son with a trusted family member, but she was unable to identify a child care option for Ari that was high quality and affordable.

As a temporary solution, Cosen found other family caregivers for Ari, but they were unreliable because of school or personal commitments. Cosen worried about Ari during the school day, wondering if she’d be able to pick him up on time or who he was with.

Cosen felt out of options until she learned of Alchesay Beginnings Child Development Center in Whiteriver, which participates in First Things First’s signature program Quality First. The FTF program partners with child care and preschool providers to improve the quality of early learning across Arizona. Quality First funds quality improvements that research proves help children thrive, such as training for teachers to expand their skills and to help create learning environments that nurture the emotional, social and academic development of every child.

Cosen qualified for a Quality First scholarship, which helps eligible families afford quality early care and education for their young children. It was reassuring for Cosen to know that Ari was in a safe and secure setting, with caregivers who were trained to provide a high quality learning experiences.

Additionally, the center offered scholarship parents the opportunity to attend regular parent workshops with their child. Cosen learned ways to engage her youngest boys at home, based on the topics covered at the center during the day. On one occasion Cosen and Ari worked together to make a book out of pictures and other items Ari had selected. He attended the center until he was ready for kindergarten.

Now in fourth grade, Ari is very successful in school. He loves to read books and give presentations in class, Cosen said.

“His current success is strongly connected to the opportunities he had while at the ABC Center,” the proud mom said.

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