For the third consecutive year, the Santa Cruz County School Superintendent’s Office is collaborating with First Things First, UA Cooperative Extension-Santa Cruz County and the Nogales/Santa Cruz Public Libraries to increase awareness about the importance of early childhood education in Santa Cruz County.

Research shows that the quality of a child’s experiences in their first five years helps shape how their brain develops and 90 percent of a child’s brain develops before they start kindergarten.

Kids with positive, stable relationships with parents and caregivers, as well as quality child care and preschool experiences, go on to do better in school and in life. When parents and communities begin to value the importance of early childhood education, together they can make an impact on individual outcomes for children, which in turn makes a positive impact on our education system and greater community.

The Santa Cruz County government will officially proclaim February as Early Childhood Education Awareness Month in order to highlight its importance. Some of the sponsored events during February, in partnership with Santa Cruz County School Superintendent’s Office, include the Eighth Annual First Things First Celebrates the Young Child Community Event, Read On Preschools and Early Childhood Legislation Day. Additionally, the Nogales, Rio Rico, Tubac and Sonoita public libraries will have story time along with other activities.

The Nogales-Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce will hear a presentation centered on the importance of early literacy in young children. Lastly, due to the importance of recognizing the people who work with the children before entering kindergarten, the Nogales Rotary Club will host a luncheon to celebrate the Early Childhood Excellence Awards in our community.

For more information regarding this countywide initiative and how you can support our youth and/or get involved with Early Childhood Education Awareness Month, you can contact Chris Young, chief deputy at the Santa Cruz County School Superintendent’s Office, at (520) 375-7940 or cyoung@santacruzcountyaz.gov.

You can also contact Jennifer Argyros, program director at the Family Resource Centers, at (520) 397-7334 or jenniferdickey@email.arizona.edu; Francisco Padilla, First Things First Santa Cruz regional director, at (520) 761-3012 or padilla@firstthingsfirst.org; or Danitza Lopez, Nogales/Santa Cruz County library director, at (520) 287-4823 or dalopez@nogalesaz.gov.

(Velasquez is the Santa Cruz County superintendent of schools.)

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