The University of Arizona

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Improving Lives, Communities and the Economy

Family Resource Centers

Mother and young son reading a book.

Family Resource Centers

  • Long-term economic advantages of having children ready to succeed in school
  • A student who can't read on grade level by 3rd grade is four times less likely to graduate from high school by age 19 than a child who reads proficiently by that time.
  • 2,840 Arizona families in Maricopa and Sana Cruz counties prepared their children for kindergarten in Family Resource Centers implemented by University of Arizona, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cooperative Extension and funded by First Things First in 2012.



Providing Children the Tools to Succeed

Manuel Garcia carefully writes his name in big, bold letters.

Then it’s time to cut with tiny scissors and glue colorful pieces of paper together to create a kite.

Manuel, 5, is getting ready for kindergarten. He and his mom, Maria Garcia, come to weekly kindergarten readiness classes at the Rio Rico Family Resource Center.  The Garcias are among 1,300 families to be served by Family Resource Centers in Santa Cruz County since the program began in 2010.

The preparation will help Manuel succeed in kindergarten and beyond.

“So many of our kids start school way behind, and their chances of catching up are slim,” said Rodney Rich, superintendent of Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District.  Family Resource Centers smooth the transition from early childhood education to the school years – improving children’s prospects for success in school and in life.

The Family Resource Center is one of three in Santa Cruz County. They are funded through a $525,000 grant from First Things First and implemented by the University of Arizona, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cooperative Extension.

Children in the district face some pretty tough odds. Eighty percent receive free or reduced lunch based on income. Many were born to teen mothers.

Darcy Dixon, director of UA Cooperative Extension in Santa Cruz County, said the classes make a “huge difference” in preparing kids and their parents for what is required of them in school.

“Without programs like this to support parents, it really could hurt the future of the state,” Rich said.

Rhian Evans Allvin, who served as CEO of First Things First before being named executive director of the National Association for the Education of Young Children in 2013, said the program sets children on a successful trajectory by preparing them to be early readers.

“Whether or not a child is reading by third grade is a huge determinate in whether they are going to graduate from high school, and high school graduation rates are very much used to predict the crime rate, incarceration rate and welfare rates,” she said.

Margarita Ochoa brings her son, 4-year-old José Alexander Ochoa, to the program.

“He loves it here, and coming to the resource center has given me a lot of parenting skills, and confidence as a parent,” Ochoa said. “This was the best thing I could have done. He’s ready for kindergarten.”

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Impact Stories

These stories provide examples of how University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Cooperative Extension (CALS-CE) translates research-based information to help people solve real, everyday problems and improve the quality of life. They highlight the impact CALS-CE has had on Arizonans.

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