The Impact of Evergreen Academy Preschool

Welcome to QC Enews Empowerment

During the Covid-19 shutdown, Quality Connections – like many businesses – was facing a quandary.

Work needed to be done, but many of our employees couldn’t find daycare for their children because of the pandemic. That became the impetus for starting our own high-quality daycare program that evolved into Evergreen Academy Preschool.

Check out the stories below to learn more about how our newest venture is changing lives – for parents, children, and workers.

– Armando Bernasconi,
Co-Founder and CEO

Catherine's Story: A student Becomes a Teacher

Catherine’s story is one of perseverance.

For as long as she could remember, she wanted to be a teacher. Some of her own teachers had a big impact on her  and she longed for the chance to help other children in the same way someday.

It’s not an uncommon dream, but for Catherine it was different because she was born with a disability.

It meant that her path to becoming a teacher wasn’t as straightforward as it is for many people.

She was eager to learn and capable, but she needed a little extra time and patience. She found it hard for someone to give her a chance in the education sector, but didn’t give up on her dream.

While working as a receptionist as part of a vocational training program at Quality Connections, Catherine earned her Early Childhood Education certificate from Coconino Community College.  When she completed the program, she applied for preschool teaching positions in the community and found work as an aide at a local preschool.

While she loved being an aide, she wanted to become a “real” teacher.

She continued working at the preschool while pressing forward with her education.  She enrolled in Rio Salado Community College, where she will graduate with an Associates Degree in Child Development next month.

“Having a disability has not stopped me from going to college”, Catherine said.  “College is really hard, but I’m not going to give up just because it’s hard.  I can’t let my disability get in the way.  That’s how I look at it.”

And she doesn’t plan to stop there.

Next, Catherine will be pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Grand Canyon University, with plans to graduate in 2025 or 2026.

In the meantime, she’s become a “real” teacher at Evergreen Academy Preschool, the latest innovative program from Quality Connections, providing high-quality preschool experiences. There she shares equal duties with her co-teacher, creating lesson plans, leading her students in activities, and much more.

“She deserves this chance and she is doing an amazing job,” said Kelly Arnold, Evergreen Academy Preschool’s Director.  “We will be there to guide her along the way and she has our full support. With Catherine’s experience and education, she is an amazing co-teacher, and that is what we started this program for.  We see the potential and fuel it!”

Evergreen Academy Preschool: Teaching the Love of Learning

In 2021, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation found that Arizona lost more than 1,000 childcare providers between 2018 and 2020. 

What was already a troubling trend accelerated during Covid-19. The lack of high-quality, affordable childcare disproportionately impacted affected rural communities, low-income families, and working women.

It costs Arizona about $1.8 billion annually in absences, employee turnover costs and lost tax revenue, the U.S. Chamber said.

We certainly felt it here at Quality Connections, where many of our employees couldn’t find daycare for their children.  In response, we started a new program – Evergreen Academy Preschool – to help members of our Quality Connections work family.

Employees like Shauna Manygoats (pictured), an instructor at our Montessori-based adult day program, QC Learning.

With four young children in her household, Manygoats says that without the childcare provided by Evergreen Academy Preschool, “I probably would not be working. I would be at home, but now I am able to work.”


She’s not the only fan of the school in her family; her kids also love attending, In fact, they can’t stop talking about it. Shauna’s oldest son, Kelvin, had delayed speech when he began attending Evergreen Academy Preschool in the summer of 2020. Eventually, however, he began speaking in full sentences.

“They taught him to talk,” she said, adding that he has made several friends and “talks about them all the time!”

As the program continued to evolve, it became apparent that the community at large could use this service. Now housed at the Flagstaff Family YMCA on Turquoise Drive, Evergreen Academy Preschool is accepting children from 6 weeks to 5 years of age and offering them the experiences they need to become successful learners and contributing members of our community.

The preschool has also opened up new avenues for Quality Connections primary mission of helping individuals with disabilities with employment opportunities; the preschool trains qualified workers for careers in childcare.

Learn more about Evergreen Academy Preschool HERE.

Save the date for #GivingTuesday. This annual, global day of charity promotes the concept of generosity not as a benevolence that the haves show to the have-nots but rather as an expression of mutuality, solidarity, and reciprocity.

By donating your time or money, you empower yourself to make a positive change in the lives of others.

Please join us the Tuesday after Thanksgiving – November 29th – for GivingTuesday. Learn how your gift will change the lives of individuals with disabilities HERE.



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