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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 prepares Yuma siblings for kindergarten success


As a divorced single mother of 2-year-old twin boys and a 9-month-old daughter, Laura Elena Torres of Yuma struggled to make rent, food and other monthly payments.

She knew she needed to find a more lucrative career to better support her kids, but needed support.

Torres’ parents welcomed their daughter and grandchildren into their home in Yuma as Laura worked full-time. The family knew they wanted the three young children in a safe and high quality environment where they would start to prepare the kids for kindergarten and success.

A friend told Torres about Preschool Express, which participates in Quality First, a signature program of First Things First. Quality First 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.

“The center became one of our biggest blessings,” said grandmother, Emma Torres. “Not just for our grandchildren but for their mom and us who excitedly witnessed their early learning process. They were so motivated to go to school and learn every day that it was a joy for us to greet them every day with their new learning phrase, word or song.”

After two years in a Quality First star-rated child care center, the twins were accepted into kindergarten before turning age 5 and continue to excel as honor roll students.

“I want to say how grateful I am to First Things First’s Quality First program for their impact in our grandchildren’s lives,” Emma Torres said.

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