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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 scholarship helps Miami boy prepare for kindergarten

​​As a mother of three, Summer Hernandez understands the importance of a mom’s role in her children’s lives. Hernandez will be the first one, however, to say that she didn’t always understand how to best support her children as their first teacher. To help supplement her own at-home parenting and make sure that her son Kenneth, 3, was ready for kindergarten, Hernandez wanted to send him to a private preschool, but the family couldn’t afford any of the very limited early learning choices available in their community. Then an opportunity at Little Vandal Preschool in Miami presented itself.

The preschool, run through the Miami Unified School District, participates in FTF’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. Hernandez applied for a Quality First Scholarship, which helps eligible families afford quality early care and education for their young children, and was accepted. This was a welcome chance for Kenneth that Hernandez was unable to afford for her older children.

The opportunity to attend however did not come without personal commitment and sacrifice. Hernandez learned that one of the requirements of the Little Vandal preschool and scholarships was that she participate in monthly parent nights, parenting education programs and volunteer weekly in her son’s classroom. “What I came to realize is that all of these requirements helped me become a more involved, informed and supportive parent,” Hernandez said. In addition to giving Hernandez a better understanding of early childhood development and her son’s individual needs, the mother sees what an impact it had on preparing Kenneth for kindergarten.

Over his two years in the preschool, Kenneth was able to visit many places and experience many things. “It is clear to me that Kenneth’s participation in preschool has put him ahead,” Hernandez said.

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