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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 helps third grader reach top of the class

girl-with-helmet-smilingWhen their daughter Natalia was just 18-months-old, long before preschool, Phoenix resident Maria de Jesus Cervantes and her husband began searching for a high-quality child care center for their toddler. Cervantes wanted to be sure that she found a center that was not only safe, but also a learning environment where Natalia could explore different activities, learn to get along with other kids and, most importantly, be happy while her parents were away.

From Natalia’s first day at Phoenix Day Child and Family Learning Center, the family knew it was a great fit. 

Now that Natalia is 8 and starting third grade, Cervantes feels grateful that her daughter spent her early years in such a high-quality child care setting.

​The first child care provider they tried wasn’t a good fit; then a friend told her about Phoenix Day Child and Family Learning Center. Phoenix Day participates in Quality First, a signature program of First Things First that partners with child care and preschool providers to improve the quality of early learning across Arizona. The program rates 4 out of 5 stars.

From the first day there, Cervantes knew it was the right choice for her daughter. “When I picked her up at the end of that first day she was so thrilled and was already looking forward to the next day,” Cervantes said. “It gave me peace of mind to know that it was a safe learning place.”

Natalia thrived over the next three years there. Cervantes was impressed with the staff’s level of knowledge, warmth, and communication skills.  “I trusted them and I was confident that Natalia was not only feeling loved but was receiving the best education possible. I’m so thankful I found Phoenix Day and I would recommend the program to any parent.”

When it was time for kindergarten, Natalia was ready both academically and socially, said her mother. In fact, Natalia finished kindergarten at the top of her class.



Now that Natalia is 8 years old and starting third grade, Cervantes feels grateful that her daughter spent her early years in such a high-quality child care setting.

“Being in a Quality First center established a foundation and structure that gave her a great start,” Cervantes said.

“Natalia has been at the top of her class consistently since kindergarten,” Cervantes said. Her second-grade teacher shared that Natalia was not only at the top of the class in math and reading, but she also loves art and is kind and gets along well with other students.

Cervantes credits much of Natalia’s success to the experience she had early on. “Early education makes a huge difference in preparing kids for school. Natalia is a testament to that.”

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