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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 helps three sisters from San Luis succeed in kindergarten and beyond

Mom smiling with her three daughters around her

Emma Reyes, a mother of three young girls living in San Luis, never realized the importance of early education until she attended a First Things First presentation, where she learned how early brain development has a lasting impact on a child’s ability to learn and succeed in school and life.

She also learned about FTF’s signature program, Quality First, which partners with child care and preschool providers across Arizona to improve the quality of early learning. More than 95% of the preschools and child care providers in the Yuma region have achieved Quality First ratings of 3 to 5 stars, which means they meet or exceed quality standards.

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“When my first daughter was born, Niltza, I did not know what to do to get her ready for school, but knew I wanted her to learn English and not be behind in school,” said Reyes.

Reyes was urged to contact the San Luis Preschool for support, knowing the preschool participated in Quality First.

The First Things First Yuma Regional Partnership Council invests in the Quality First program and scholarships to help eligible families afford to send their child to quality child care centers and preschools. Reyes decided to send all three of her daughters to the San Luis Preschool and was amazed at how they’ve been prepared to succeed in school.

“Niltza’s preschool teachers encouraged her creativity through art and allowed her to use her imagination,” said Reyes of her first daughter, who is now age 11.

Her second daughter, Brianna, now age 5, started attending the preschool last year to help her prepare for kindergarten.

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Briana enhanced her early literacy and math skills. “She learned to write her name and family members’ names,” Reyes said.

Her third and youngest daughter, Khiara age 4, had a speech delay prior to entering preschool. After an assessment, her teacher provided a plan and began encouraging her to speak by asking her open-ended questions.

“This led to back and forth conversations,” Reyes said. “We also started reading books and working on her word pronunciation. Her teacher made it a priority to get her up to speed with the rest of the class.”

Reyes said her daughters also learned through consistent care and a routine how to self-regulate, express their emotions and have healthy social skills.

“All of my daughters were encouraged to join peer groups, as well as to lead activities,” she said. “Through play, my daughters have learned to socialize with their peers, build friendships and are able to get along with others.”

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Now, Khiara is caught up with her class and can speak clearly. Briana transitioned well from preschool to kindergarten and is reading and writing. Niltza received the Ambassador of Excellence Award, Student of the Month Award and has received a scholarship for John Hopkins University to learn robotics.

“Thanks to San Luis Preschool and First Things First, my three daughters are ready for school and to be successful in their lives,” Reyes said.

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