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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.

Shy preschooler transitions to kindergarten and becomes go-to student

​​Candice Nomoki was looking for a better way to communicate with her children after she saw herself falling into a similar parenting style that she grew up with.

“I felt myself being that boot camp mom,” said Nomoki, who lives in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. “I was boot camp strict, the way my parents were with me growing up. I thought, ‘My kids are small. I have to step back. I can’t do this to them.’”

With two kids under age 5, the mother of four, signed up for W.I.S.H. Parent Education Program, 10 weeks of weekly classes, funded by First Things First.

“I learned how to speak to my children, not at them,” Nomoki said. In turn, her kids began sharing more with her. “They opened up a lot. I found what I was searching for, how to communicate with my kids. I needed to breathe and let my kids be kids.”

She also learned how to involve the kids in hands on projects at home. For example, instead of buying toys, the family recycles household items, such as boxes.

“We make robots and build towns out of all kinds of boxes,” Nomoki said.

They recently decorated a pastry tart box to be the responsibility box, filled with different types of chores that each child can do to help around the house.

“What you pick is what you’re going to do the rest of the week,” Nomoki said. “We even have simple chores for our 4-year-old. He’s learning simple words, so his chores have one word and a picture. We put a picture of a trash can. He knows his chore for the week is to pick up trash.”

Nomoki and her husband also get all the kids involved in cooking healthy meals. “We let their hands get in the mix. The 6- and 9-year-old know how to scramble eggs and are learning how to use knives properly,” she said.

When daughter Ronnie was 4 years old, Nomoki also wanted ways to help her be less shy and more vocal. She signed up Ronnie for the FTF-funded Summer Transition to Kindergarten Program.

“She’s the quiet one,” Nomoki said, describing how Ronnie would hide under the table when she first started the program. “I had to be there with holding her hand.”

Eventually, Ronnie became comfortable in a classroom setting and was excited to start kindergarten. Now in first grade, she was recently selected student of the month and invited to attend the elementary school principal’s tea party, an invitation-only event at the school.

“She’s the go-to student when the teacher asks to do projects,” Nomoki said.

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