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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 in Show Low helps shy 3-year-old boy socially prepare for kindergarten

Gage family photo, dad, mom, two sons standing outside near a tree

Alex and April Gage realized a lifelong dream of opening a business together as husband and wife in May 2019. As the owners of Play Date, an indoor play center for children, they faced balancing caring for their 3-year-old son, Levi, and working more than 40 hours a week.

They knew Levi needed preschool. He struggled with shyness and needed help learning how to socialize with other children and teachers to get ready for kindergarten.

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The Gages were relieved to learn about the availability of a Quality First scholarship at Sprouts Preschool in Show Low.

Quality First is a signature program of First Things First that partners with child care and preschool providers across Arizona to improve the quality of early learning. Quality First funds quality improvements that research proves help children thrive, such as training for teachers to expand their skills and achieve their best.

The FTF Navajo Apache Regional Partnership Council funds Quality First scholarships in the area so families can afford to send their children to centers that provide quality care and education. The Gages applied for a scholarship and received one for Levi.

Within weeks of attending Sprouts Preschool, Levi began to develop his social skills and also learned his ABCs and how to write his name. He also learned how to be kind and respectful to others, which he demonstrated at preschool and at home.

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“The teachers were so great with our son,” said April Gage. “He had started the school year very shy, but as time progressed, we saw him gain confidence and become extremely social.”

When it came time to test into kindergarten, his kindergarten teacher said she was impressed with how much he already knew and his social skills. By being prepared, Levi made an easy transition from preschool into kindergarten and started his elementary school experience with confidence.  

“We are so thankful for the Quality First program and First Things First for making it available to our family and other families who attend Sprouts Preschool,” said Alex Gage. “This program gave our son the opportunity to learn and grow while preparing him for kindergarten.”  

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