Marisa Nuñez, Marisa Hair, Long Island City, NY

Tiffany Diaz

My First Steps

Bronx, New York

“The loan literally saved us.” –Tiffany Diaz

When the Pieces Fit

With degrees in both business and behavioral science, Tiffany was looking for a meaningful career to combine her educational experience. “I liked business but wasn’t interested in working regularly in an office. It’s not what gets me up. When I opened My First Steps daycare, everything I learned came together so nicely, all of the puzzle pieces fit perfectly.” Tiffany opened her home-based location in 2011 and an afterschool location five years later, both in the Bronx. She developed a passion for childcare advocacy, joining programs, attending meetings, and running for union positions in order to be a voice she knew her industry so urgently needed. “I love my job, but there’s so much more to be done. We have to advocate for ourselves. We have to make sure we’re in the conversations in those big meetings so the change we need happens.”

A Dedicated Team

When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in 2020, nothing could prepare Tiffany for its impact. “The week following the stay-at-home order, we had no children. With parents working from home, they were able to take care of their kids. Then essential workers started to send their kids, and that following week I had five kids.” Yet, since her daycare typically cares for around 35 children, Tiffany worried about the financial health of herself and her five employees. “We didn’t know what would happen. It was scary and unsettling.”

In March, Tiffany received a PPP loan from Ascendus. “The loan literally saved us. I hadn’t been able to get any other grants. I was able to use that between payroll and getting up to date with the rent.” Tiffany was especially grateful to be able to continue employing her staff. “I can’t just think of myself but not my team. These girls depend on their paychecks, just as I do. They have rent to pay, some have children.”

Apart but Together

Now that My First Steps is caring for the children of essential workers, Tiffany feels a stronger sense of commitment to her community than ever. “I’ve always had really good parents, but these parents’ appreciation is different. And the fact that they trust us to care for their children during a pandemic is humbling.” With much of the learning they oversee now virtual, Tiffany and her team have gone above and beyond to ensure their children endure this difficult time. “We’re seeing what we can do to enjoy the time apart but together. We purchased caterpillars so they can see the cycle of a butterfly. Just a little something, like caterpillars turning into butterflies, to brighten up their days.”

With unwavering resiliency, Tiffany is focused on and ready for the future, one she hopes will look different than a pre-pandemic society. “It’s made me question: how can we be better as a city? It’s also made me think how my program can improve so that when we reopen, My First Steps is thriving and better than ever, so that we’re ready for those parents.”

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