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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 preschool allows Queen Creek girl to thrive

In fall of 2022, Julia Payan and her husband faced a difficult decision. 

Payan was due to have her second child in early 2023 and was working as a preschool teacher at Bridges Preschool of Queen Creek down the hall from her then 2-year-old daughter Logan.

Payan was also enrolled in a college program studying for her bachelor’s in family and marriage service. Payan wanted to be home with her newborn, Santiago, which required her to quit a job she loved, but with only one income, the family would no longer be able to afford to send Logan to preschool. This was devastating to Payan because she would have to stop her studies and dream of working to support families with young children. 

Having worked for a preschool program, Payan was aware of the Quality First scholarship program which offers scholarships funded through the First Things First Southeast Maricopa Regional Council. The scholarships are designed to help eligible families afford quality early care and education for their young children.

Bridges Preschool of Queen Creek participates in FTF’s program, Quality First, which partners with early childhood providers in Arizona to increase quality improvements that help young children thrive. Research shows that quality early learning settings help young children develop important skills — like motivation, self-control, focus and getting along with others — skills that make a big difference in their ability to succeed in school and in life. The Payan family submitted their application and were approved to have Logan receive a scholarship.

They often share with other families how easily accessible the support programs that FTF funds are available to all families. 

“The Quality First scholarship program is a program that can help you parent,” Payan said. “That’s amazing!” There should not be a stigma around getting scholarships or asking for help. As a community, we should work together to make things better for all of our children. First Things First does that.”

Since receiving the scholarship, Logan has thrived in school. 

“Logan was non-verbal and received intervention through the state, but now she is talking so much,” Payan said. “I attribute a lot of that to school and the teachers and peers. She’s a really good girl, and I just want the best for her because she deserves it.” 

Not only has the scholarship program benefitted Logan, but Payan was able to continue her college courses. ”This has made a huge difference,” she said. ”We can talk to our daughter and she can talk back to us. I waited three years for her to call me Mama! A whole network of opportunities has opened up for her.” The Payan family are truly grateful for this opportunity to give their daughter the social interaction and academic foundation she needs. 

“If Logan didn’t get the scholarship, she would have been in front of the TV all day because I am a full-time student and have baby Santiago,” she said. “I would have horrible mom guilt.” 

Instead, Payan marvels at Logan’s confidence. 

Each passing week, we see her confidence increase as she learns how to problem solve in social situations, how to use her imagination in dramatic play, as well as a foundation of mathematics, literacy and self-expression,” Payan said. “This early education opportunity is beyond what I could offer her if she had stayed at home with me.”

She is confident that Logan will be ready for kindergarten. 

“It is definitely because of this program that I have no fear in her readiness for kindergarten,” Payan said. “Her teachers and program directors are the real heroes by fostering her education with an abundance of empathy, play and exploration. Even though she has a speech delay and is needing additional services now, her words have slowly turned into sentences. Finally, after three years she is getting her voice.”

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