Gloria Pliego, owner/director of Rainforest Montessori Preschool and Day Care Center in Nogales, has been named the 2021 First Things First Santa Cruz Region Champion for Young Children.

Pliego, a resident of Nogales, was recognized at the June FTF Santa Cruz Regional Council meeting.

The award is given to people who volunteer their time to raise public awareness of the importance of early childhood development and health – something that Pliego has done in the local community with First Things First, the organization said in a news release.

“I believe early childhood development and health are important because children who learn early in life to believe in their own abilities and take pride in their independence will be well-equipped for lifelong success,” Pliego said in the news release. “Healthy development in the early years provides the foundation for their future.”

According to FTF, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, Rainforest was the only child care center in the region that was able to keep its doors open to serve frontline and essential workers who needed child care services. In addition, Pliego and her staff extended their regular operating hours in order to provide child care later in the day for families of essential workers.

First Things First funds early learning, family support and children’s preventive health services to help kids be successful once they enter kindergarten. Learn more at

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