Kim Gamez named October’s CAC Student of the Month
By Guy Harrison, CAC Media & Marketing Specialist
PINAL COUNTY, Ariz. - Running a home-based business is no small task, but when your clients are children ranging in age from six weeks to school age, it can be particularly daunting. That hasn't stopped Kim Gamez, an early care and education (ECE) student at Central Arizona College, from flourishing as both a business owner and as a student continuing her education, a process that she describes as an ongoing journey.
"I really don't see an end to that," she says. "I'd really like to continue as far as I am financially able to do so and just continue to grow as a professional. I don't really have an end goal. I just want to keep on going."
It is her zeal for education, as well as her contributions to the community and CAC's ECE program, that has made Gamez deserving of the college's Student of the Month award for October.
"Her love for children and focus on providing the best care possible for them has always been Kim's goal but it has grown even stronger the more she has learned," says Linda Williams-Tuenge, outreach program specialist in the ECE program at CAC.
After earning a scholarship to attend CAC back in 1991, Gamez married and dropped out to focus on her growing family. As is the case with many stay-at-home mothers, she had to find a way to earn the income she had sacrificed by staying at home and it was Gamez's love for her own children that led her to open her very own group home daycare called Kidz Kare. The result is a business that is still going strong after 19 years and boasts 16 full- and part-time enrolled children.
Three years ago, Gamez, a mother who always preaches the importance of education to her now college-aged daughters, one of which currently attends CAC, decided that she had hired enough help with Kidz Kare that she could continue her own education. In doing so, she was able to enroll in CAC at age 37 and recoup the scholarship she had previously forfeited by becoming a T.E.A.C.H. scholar through the college's First Things First Quality First program. Not only has Gamez done well academically but her instruction in the Quality First program has improved the quality of care at Kidz Kare. The childcare provided by Gamez and her team was recently given a three star rating by Arizona First Things First, a distinction only held by six other childcare providers in Pinal County and by 102 providers out of 776 in the entire state.
"CAC's help has been endless," Gamez says. "From the faculty to the staff, there are a number of people at CAC who have had an impact on my life. Everyone's just so friendly and approachable and so eager to help you with your education. I don't have one negative thing to say about anyone that I've encountered there."
The college and the community have also benefitted from Gamez's affiliation with CAC. The ECE program regularly sends its students to Kidz Kare to observe quality in action as well as to gain volunteer experience. Additionally, she has been asked to share her story with CAC students as well as Arizona's First Things First Board and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) accreditation team that will come to CAC for a visit later this month.
Gamez is humble about her success as a childcare provider and her distinction as CAC's first Student of the Month for the 2013-2014 academic year.
"I'm honored and I'm just tongue-tied because there are probably a lot of other students that are not 40," she says with a laugh, "and deserve to be Student of the Month."
And, naturally, there is already one jealous CAC student; namely, Gamez's youngest daughter.
"She says, ‘But Mom, I want to be Student of the Month.' I giggle but I just didn't see that coming."