Memphis WebsiteMemphis Dickerson is only a first-grader, but she is wise well beyond her years.

When she graduated from kindergarten in May, she earned an academic achievement medal for being ahead of her class and well on her way to doing first- grade work.

“I was such a proud parent today,” said her mom, Becca Dickerson, on graduation day. “I owe her academic foundation to the YMCA. I’m so grateful to the Y for the opportunity it gave Memphis.”

Dickerson had enrolled Memphis in preschool at the Flagstaff Family YMCA at age 2, upon the advice of a friend. She recalls that Memphis didn’t cry when she dropped her off that first day. But she did cry when Dickerson picked her up.

“She didn’t want to leave,” Dickerson says. “In the car ride home, she was so excited and already wanted to go back. I knew then that it was going to be good.

“Not one negative thing came out of the Y,” Dickerson adds. “It was just amazing from Day One.”

Ahead of Her Class

After Memphis’ first year in preschool, at age 3, she knew her colors and could write her first and last names. By the time she started kindergarten at Thomas Elementary, she knew the entire alphabet and could count to 100.

“She was way ahead of everybody,” recalls Dickerson. “So once a week, for an hour or two a day, the kindergarten teacher would take Memphis to the first-grade class.”

The little girl her mom describes as “sassy” is not only ahead of her classmates academically. She also exhibits the social maturity of someone much older.

“If another person is struggling or they’re upset or they’re crying, Memphis goes over and consoles them,” says Dickerson. “I noticed at the Y, the teachers do that. Memphis picked up on that, so now she does it. That’s something she never would have gotten had she not gotten it from the Y.”

Dickerson says in kindergarten, a boy in another class had behavioral issues, and his teacher would send him out in the hall. Memphis would leave her class, and her teacher would find her out in the hallway consoling the boy.

Eventually, the boy’s teacher started taking him to Memphis’ class when he had an outburst instead of sending him out in the hall. Memphis would color or read a book with the boy, and he would calm down.

Stuff that Stays with You

When Memphis started preschool at the Y, Dickerson says the teachers taught her to direct her own sassy, social, strong-willed personality in a positive way.

“When she had behavioral outbursts, the Y was really good about coming down to her level, figuring out what was wrong, showing compassion and talking to her about her actions and behaviors and how they affect others,” says Dickerson.

“To learn that at such a young age, that stuff stays with you,” she adds. “Not once was it, ‘You’re going to go sit out in the hallway.’”

The importance of sharing is something else Dickerson says Memphis learned at the Y preschool.

“Memphis loves to share,” says her mom. “If she has one fruit snack, she’s going to split that fruit snack and share it. I noticed that from the second she was at the Y. Whereas other kids, they don’t have that concept. What’s theirs is theirs.”

Shaping a Child’s Future

The YMCA has offered preschool through its Early Learning Centers for more than 20 years. Classes are currently available at the Flagstaff, Chandler and Scottsdale branches and will open at more branches in 2019.

Y preschools are built on the belief that we are shaping a child’s future from the first day that child is in our care. The program helps young learners develop lifelong academic, social and emotional skills that will equip them to thrive in adulthood.

Dickerson thinks this focus is what distinguishes the Y preschool from other preschool and day-care environments.

“The one thing that I really loved about sending Memphis to the Y is she got to learn academically, but it was also about values, it was also about social skills,” says Dickerson.

“I have so much trust in the teachers at the YMCA. They truly cared about Memphis as a human being. Even though she was only 2 and 3 and 4 years old, they shaped her little mind.”