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Early childhood classroom serves as learning lab for teachers of students with special needs

Yuma, AZ (March 27, 2019) – A new early childhood classroom where early childhood educators in Yuma County can learn to work with young children with special needs recently opened on the Arizona Western College campus.

First Things First, Yuma School District One, and Arizona Western College have partnered to open an inclusion classroom in the College’s Child Development Learning Lab. The early childhood classroom, which includes 10 students with special needs and 10 typical students, provides additional learning to preschool-aged children in Yuma County.

Yuma School District One is covering the cost of the classroom teacher and bus transportation for students. Arizona Western College is providing the classroom and a teacher assistant. The classroom also serves as a learning lab for early childhood education students to learn best practices in a classroom environment.

“Arizona Western College recognizes that education is a lifelong journey, and a child’s first years are so critical to their overall development. That is why we are so excited to partner with Yuma School District One and First Things First to expand early childhood learning opportunities here in Yuma. Together, we are working collaboratively toward establishing thriving communities in Yuma County,” says Dr. Daniel P. Corr, Arizona Western College President.

AWC’s Vice President of Learning Services Dr. Linda Elliott-Nelson adds, “Early childhood education is essential to prepare the foundation for a lifetime of learning. The early stage in human development – birth to 8 years of age – represents what can predict an individual’s success in school and in their career.”

“This is an opportunity for our early childhood professionals to learn and grow,” said First Things First Yuma Regional Director, Rudy Ortiz. “There’s never been an opportunity like this in our community at a lab school to have a full-inclusion classroom.”

The First Things First Yuma Regional Council invested through its Start Up, Expansion, and Learning Lab Strategy, which seeks to add early childhood classrooms in the community and increase the number of slots to quality early childhood education.

“This strategy allowed the council to focus on one of the priorities from recent First Things First town halls, where the community said they wanted a focus on children with special needs,” Ortiz says. “After an initial investment, you have a model that is self-sustained and ready for Yuma to learn and grow.”


About First Things First – First Things First is a voter-created, statewide organization that funds early education and health programs to help kids be successful once they enter kindergarten. Decisions about how those funds are spent are made by local councils staffed by community volunteers. To learn more, visit

For more information, contact:

Nena Garcia
Community Outreach Coordinator                        
First Things First
(928) 343-3020                                                                                                                                                              

Alma Barrandey
Director, Child Development Learning Lab
Arizona Western College
(928) 344-7564

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