Arizona program is bringing millions to local preschools

Quality First preschools in Yuma

YUMA, Ariz. - Quality First is a program enhancing early education here in Yuma.

Great Beginnings Preschool, in the Crane School District offers this program. 

Quality First is funded by the tobacco tax and other partnerships. Over five million dollars was allocated from the tobacco tax and 51 percent of that goes to the quality first system improving schools and access to those schools in Yuma County.

The First Things First regional director for Yuma County, Rudy Ortiz spoke with educational leaders such as board members, superintendents, teachers and principals on Wednesday to share the importance of a Quality First preschool program.

"We're really excited about the progress in Yuma County with our preschools, the Yuma council is investing in 41 preschools in the community and 90 percent of them are at the highest quality in the state and we're about 20 percent higher than the state as a whole when it comes to our high quality programs," Ortiz said.

The program works alongside teachers offering tips to help build a bridge between preschool and kindergarten.

One preschool teacher at Great Beginnings, Cathy Duffy spoke on the panel Wednesday at this meeting to share her thoughts on the program.

"Quality First has helped me to create a learning environment for the students where I can nurture their academic, social and emotional needs," Duffy said. "They've helped me with my room arrangement, they've helped me with the schedule for the day ..." she added.

Superintendent of Crane School District, Laurie Doering says the long term affects from this program are fascinating.

"...It helps children persist, it helps them with social skills, they are more likely to hold down a job when they get older, they are more likely not to be arrested, to graduate high school, and really what we are doing is teaching them those skills early and young so they have multiple opportunities to practice them," Doering said.

Yuma continues to put that allocated money towards more resources for family and early education.

On October 19, O. C. Johnson Elementary School will open the first community school in Yuma. 

Ortiz says the hope is for this community school is to become a natural hub for families. O. C. Johnson will have a preschool and health center on site as well as a family resource center for free parenting classes, literacy classes and more.

For a list of all the resources being offered in Yuma County and a complete list of all the schools and their Quality rating visit

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