Single dad finds affordable option for son’s preschool needs


By Jennifer Quinonez for Los Angeles Universal Preschool

imageThere’s no question that the economic hardships many Southern Californians are facing today are affecting families in all socio-economic groups. But the hardest hit tends to be those in the middle- or working-class. These are families of whom many are living paycheck to paycheck.

“I’m a single dad raising two kids, and everything is so expensive these days,” said Hawthorne resident Theo Mays, Sr.

Mays is a mail carrier and says he earns too much money to qualify for programs that would help pay for his children’s educational needs. Yet, he sacrifices every month to pay for the basic necessities such as the mortgage, health insurance and more. He says there was no question that finding a preschool for his youngest child was top priority.

“Financially, I needed help and Ms. Toi’s preschool program was the answer,” said Mays. “Not only did she provide an affordable program, she’s also giving my son a jump start.

“The core of his learning starts here, and even though I do take a very active role, I work full time. It’s reassuring to me that I know he’s getting the basics taken to another level.”

‘Ms. Toi’ is Toimicia Deffebaugh, a Family Child Care provider in South Los Angeles who operates a preschool out of her home. Mays says Deffebaugh’s educational and nurturing environment coupled with the affordability factor made it an easy decision for him to have his son attend her program.

image “The parents in my community want preschool, but it’s not affordable, and there’s little high- quality access,” says Deffebaugh. “So, a lot of four-year-olds are sitting at home, with elderly grandparents or other family members. I have a lot of grandmas calling me realizing their grandkids need to be better socialized, but not sure what to do.”

Since 2005, Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) has funded hundreds of preschools like Deffebaugh’s throughout Los Angeles County, giving people like Theo Mays the chance to have his child experience a high-quality preschool at little or no cost.

“All four-year-olds deserve the chance to thrive and live up to their fullest potential,” said LAUP Chief Executive Officer Celia C. Ayala. “That’s why it’s our goal to keep funding quality preschool education in the county, to make it more accessible and affordable to thousands of families.

“We need children to participate in a positive learning environment while getting ready for kindergarten, regardless of their parents’ financial situation, because their future success in life depends on it.”

imageDeffebaugh notes that preschool gives families a great introduction to preparing their child and themselves for lifelong success.

“In preschool, a child’s vocabulary expands weekly and children learn through play,” said Deffebaugh. “Children learn to count and their letters and numbers through songs, and movement, and creative expression and that’s why playing is so very important to learning.

“If it’s fun, they’ll grasp it.”

For Mays, preparing his son for kindergarten is top priority and finding a program that offers support and quality has made all the difference in the world.

“As a parent, you don’t’ know everything, but here, through this preschool teacher and LAUP, I’ve learned about things like nutrition, and why playing is important to my son’s learning, and how to help him at home,” said Mays. “I understand now that a child’s learning starts at a very young age. I didn’t have this opportunity with my now 12-year-old and I wish I had.”

For information about LAUP preschools throughout Los Angeles County, call 866-675-5400 or visit

More stories from our ‘Preschool Cool’ series:
LAUP offers education resources to aspiring teachers
How to help the transition from preschool to Kindergarten
The economic impact of preschool
Good habits begin in preschool