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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 preschool puts Phoenix first grader at top of class

​​Maria Jesus Cervantes’ initial experience with a poor quality child care center left her toddler crying every time she dropped her off.

Through Quality First – First Things First’s early learning quality improvement and rating system – Cervantes researched other potential child care settings for her child and found Phoenix Day, which has achieved a Quality Plus rating.

Cervantes’ fears were quickly alleviated.

Natalia quickly learned all of her colors and shapes and had a smile on her face when she was dropped off and when she was picked up at the end of the day.

“There was instruction going on every day; there was a plan and I had meetings with her teachers,” Cervantes said. “I was amazed that they were teaching her science and math.”

Natalia also gained confidence every day as she shared new information with her mother of things she had learned.

As Natalia moved on to kindergarten, she excelled in her class. The first grader is reading Junie B. Jones books. At her age she is expected to read around 20 words per minute, Natalia is reading 80, Cervantes said.

“She looked forward to going to school every day, she was ready for kindergarten,” Cervantes said. “Early education makes a huge difference in preparing kids for school. Natalia is testament to that.”

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