Young students in Tempe have made remarkable strides in preparing for kindergarten thanks to Tempe PRE. What’s more, families have seen a range of positive impacts beyond the classroom, from being able to gain employment to saving money on childcare.
Now, even more families in Tempe and neighboring cities will be able to access Tempe PRE with the inclusion of the full- and half-tuition categories. In its initial two years, Tempe PRE was available only to income qualified families residing in Tempe. With tuition assistance from the program, hundreds of young Tempe students prepared for kindergarten readiness.
PRE families see a range of success with the preschool program:
Every week is an adventure in learning for three-year-old Eli Tufte in his Tempe PRE classroom at Rover Elementary School.
One day he’s mastering scissors and a hole punch to hone his fine motor skills. The next, he’s letting his imagination run wild as he paints. Still the next, he’s playing, sharing and making new friends at the “home living” station. In between it all, Eli is embracing new responsibilities like getting his own cot ready for naptime and properly washing his hands.
The range of new experiences are teaching Eli to follow directions and boosting his confidence. For mom Julie Tufte, the benefits of Tempe PRE are easy to see.
“I have really high expectations and this program has checked every box,” she said.
Tempe PRE has been an ideal fit for the Tufte family in many ways. Eli is making new discoveries all the time, socializing and learning to take directions from teachers.
Julie appreciates how his teachers keep the lines of communication open, sending updates and pictures through an easy-to-use mobile app. She is grateful that they work with her to accommodate sensitivities to certain foods and soaps.
Julie is also thrilled that Tempe PRE is located at an established neighborhood school where her older son is in first grade, which will ease Eli’s transition into kindergarten at Rover.
Tuition for Tempe PRE varies by income with free, half-pay and full-pay tuition options, giving families choice.
“It’s like having a Harvard education at community college prices,” she said.
Ready to learn
Four-year-old Arthur moved to the United States from Vietnam as a two-year-old and learned English pretty quickly, his parents said. In fact, he was picking up a lot as a very young boy, showing an interest in reading and being independent.
When the family learned about Tempe PRE, they knew it would be the perfect academic and social jumpstart to kindergarten.
“This young boy is very active, and he needed an educational environment,” said mom Anh Truong.
Arthur enrolled in the program at Scales Technology Academy and has blossomed. He loves reading books with his grandmother and “teaching” her to read them, Truong said. He also enjoys relaying the things he learns in the classroom, showing how to properly wash his hands or singing a new song.
Families stay up-to-date using an app that allows the teacher to send messages, like what to bring for show and tell. They also receive pictures and videos that give them a sense of how the day is going for their students.
Thanks to Tempe PRE, his parents said, Arthur is going to be well prepared for kindergarten.
“He loves school. He loves his teacher,” said dad David Carter. “When there is a holiday, he misses school.”
Road to career success
When Heather Shennan enrolled her son Rowan in Tempe PRE at Carminati Elementary School, she was eager to give him a taste of what school would be like academically and encourage his interest in reading.
But the benefits stretched well beyond the classroom. Shennan said paying out of pocket for preschool would have been expensive – more than her rent – and wasn’t an option. But with Rowen enrolled in the preschool program, she was able to take a part-time job in the financial services field and be home in the afternoon with her son.
Shennan was thrilled to learn that the preschool program encourages families to advance in their careers and work to improve their financial independence. Tempe PRE is free for Tempe families living at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. A preschool program that the family previously connected with in California set stricter income limits that discouraged Shennan from increasing her income to boost the family’s circumstances.
“They don’t punish you for succeeding (in Tempe),” she said. “That blew me away.”
So as Shennan focuses on work during the day, 4-year-old Rowan focuses on learning and making friends.
“He comes home and says, ‘I need to practice my Ws tonight’,” she said. “It’s been great. He’s been doing really well.”
For Kayla Thomas and Isaac Estell, Tempe PRE has been a lifeline financially.
“This was a gateway to our having a life,” Thomas said.
The monthly day care bill for 4-year-old Xander was $1,000, which put a big strain on the budget and made for a paycheck-to-paycheck existence. When Xander enrolled in the preschool program at Aguilar Elementary School, the school Thomas herself once attended, life became more comfortable financially.
“The bills are paid and there’s money left over,” Thomas said.
Isaac Estell works in the solar industry and Thomas works in the customer vehicle lending field. Thomas had been working part time but thanks to the pre-K program, she now has the flexibility to work more hours.
As important, Xander thrived with Tempe PRE. His parents said the experience will give him a leg up going in kindergarten, being familiar with everything from waking up to get ready for school to listening to the teacher to learning how to share. Even something simple, like knowing how to stand in a line - a standard in kindergarten - is important.
“The structure is the biggest thing,” Thomas said.
More Comments from Parents
A recent message from a parent whose child is now ready for kindergarten this school year.
"I want to tell you guys how appreciative I am of this program and how simply amazing it is. From providing education I wouldn't be able to find anywhere else, to sending my child home with clothes and school supplies at Christmas and the end if the school year, to 3 meals a day ALL FOR FREE... this was a blessing and I am so deeply humbled for my daughter to have been accepted. As a single mom I could never have provided my daughter with the education and preparation for kinder that you guys have. I can't thank you all enough. Seriously. She's more than ready for kinder, and excited about starting. She was behind at the start of the school year, and to see where she's come is just amazing.
You all are angels. Please keep this program going and give more low income households the same opportunities. Thank you thank you thank you. And thanks again." Aubrey HanksTempe PRE: "we had such an amazing experience with tempepre. my child learned so much. not only academics but behavior improved greatly. it was such am amazing experience to prepare for kindergarten. the tempepre staff is so great, knowledgeable, professional, caring, they truly love what they do. the teachers of my child's class were so pleasant and patient. I look forward to my littlest going in the future. thank you tempepre, you really are the best"