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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.

Toddler blossoms through early learning scholarship

mom-teaching-toddlerChandler mom Torre Valentine is a big proponent of quality early childhood education. “It helps to set a foundation for how (a child’s) future is going to look,” she said.

Indeed, research shows that children who have access to high quality early learning programs are more ready for kindergarten, do better in school and are more likely to graduate and enroll in college.

But the Valentines, like many Arizona families, struggled to afford quality child care for their 3-year-old son, Joseph (Joe Joe). Costs were so high that Torre’s husband had to stay home with Joe Joe rather than working full-time.

Things changed for the better when the Valentines found the child care center at the Chandler/Gilbert Family YMCA and were able to secure a Quality First Scholarship to help them afford to enroll Joe Joe.

Quality First – a signature program of First Things First –partners with almost 1,000 child care and preschool programs across Arizona to improve the quality of early learning for kids from birth to age 5. Quality First also includes a limited number of Quality First Scholarships to help low-income families access quality child care and preschool.

Joe Joe has blossomed in his first year at the Chandler/Gilbert Family YMCA program. His language skills have improved dramatically, from saying just a few words to now talking in complete sentences and being able to easily communicate with his two older siblings. Torre is confident that he will be better prepared for kindergarten, too.

Torre is grateful for the opportunity for Joe Joe to be in a child care setting where the staff “take the time to get to know the children and are passionate about the work they do.”

Having Joe Joe in an early learning program has benefitted his family, too.

“(The scholarship) saved us,” said Torre. “We’re in a better position now because we are both able to work. I don’t even have the words to describe how much we’ve (all) benefited.”

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