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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.

Resource center helps Phoenix mother prepare her daughter socially and academically for school

​​​On most days, Gaby Acosta refills the snack machines throughout various schools in the Washington Elementary School District in Phoenix as part of her vending machine business. As a single mom, this was also a great opportunity to spend time with her baby. Since Magali Itzel could walk, she let her daughter accompany her to the schools.

Acosta knew that in the early years, kids absorb everything, so she wanted to expose her daughter to the world. This worked for a few years, but as Magali grew, Acosta noticed that her daughter didn’t know how to interact with kids her age. At home, the adults gave the child all the attention she needed, but Acosta realized what her daughter needed now, was interaction with other kids.

So Acosta asked the receptionist, who she saw every day at Lakeview Elementary as she refilled the machines with snacks, “Do you have any programs for young kids who aren’t in kindergarten?”

The woman behind the desk slipped a flyer across the counter with a list of programs for kids under 5 at the district’s family resource center. First Things First funds the Washington Resource Information Center, where parents take classes on how to support their child’s learning. There are also early literacy and kindergarten readiness programs for kids under 5.

At first it was overwhelming to find that there were so many options. Acosta didn’t know anyone at the center, and knew she would have to overcome her own shyness, in order to help her daughter.

Mother and daughter enrolled in one program after another.

Magali learned skills like cutting, coloring, sharing, and interacting with other kids, while Acosta learned techniques for reinforcing all of these skills at home. Acosta learned the importance of daily reading, and it became a fun family activity. Telling each other stories was their way to bond. Acosta was sure she was on the right path.

“She was ready for kindergarten because of all the literacy and other programs at WRIC,” Acosta said. Today, Magali is a happy first grader at Washington Elementary School, where she is at the top of her class.

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