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

OPINION: LAUP offers educational resources to aspiring teachers


By Jennifer Quinonez for Los Angeles Universal Preschool

imageFinding a quality job and making a difference in a child’s life may seem like an unattainable dream. For many, it may also seem overwhelming as to where to begin to fulfill that goal.

Today, students have a place to turn to for guidance and financial support, thanks to Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP), which is seeking to support and inspire people interested in working with children and their families.

LAUP is a non-profit organization providing high-quality, free or low-cost preschool to children in Los Angeles County. Three years ago, LAUP launched an Early Care and Education Workforce Initiative to provide resources, funds and one-on-one support so that a person can more easily pursue an education in the field of child development. The Initiative is composed of seven collaborations located throughout Los Angeles County.

One collaborative, called Project RISE, is led by Long Beach City College (LBCC) and the program has partnered with the Long Beach Unified School District and California State University, Dominguez Hills to recruit, train and help students receive their degrees in early care and education, as well as furthering their careers in the field.

“We’ve changed the way our students think about their career path,” said Donna Rafanello, Long Beach City College. “Instead of taking a couple of courses, they’re thinking about this as an educational career, because we help them with the certificate process and offer specialized counselors — so it’s really made an impression.”

LAUP also supports its own LAUP preschool teachers by providing financial assistance through its stipend program to those who want to further their education. The LAUP Stipend Program awarded more than 200 stipends to LAUP teachers who have successfully completed college coursework in child development over the past year.

“The LAUP stipend was a great motivator, just knowing that there was somebody looking out for me, and encouraging me to go back to school while I tried to work as well,“ said Preschool Teacher Leslie Toscano. “I think teachers having degrees is very important. Sometimes, we think of preschool as a time of play or just daycare, but I believe children need teachers who understand that this is a very important age for them to learn. It’s the foundation of their young lives.”

For more information on these programs, contact LAUP at 1-866-675-5400 and visit

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OPINION: How to help the transition from preschool to Kindergarten

OPINION: The economic impact of preschool


By Jennifer Quinonez for Los Angeles Universal Preschool

imageWith more than 10 million residents, Los Angeles County is one of the most heavily populated counties in America. There are more than 155,000 four-year-old children living here, and yet only about 70,000 licensed preschool spaces are even accessible. Since about half of the children in this area are missing out on a preschool education and possibly starting elementary school behind their peers, Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) is working to provide high-quality, free or low-cost preschool to thousands of children who need it most — but we can’t do it alone.

Business leaders, taxpayers and elected officials need to take a look at preschool as a smart business investment because preschool has proven to help close the achievement gap among children entering kindergarten, as well as combat high crime rates and a sagging economy.

According to a Rand Corporation study, RAND researchers estimated that “a high-quality, one-year, voluntary, universal preschool program in California could generate for California society $2.62 in benefits for every dollar of cost.” The study found that for each annual cohort of four-year-olds (approximately 550,000 children), California would receive an estimated $2.7 billion in “present-value net benefits.”

The positive economic impact of investing in Pre-K services is also significantly felt here in Los Angeles County. The Center for Community Economic Development released a report that says the early care and education (ECE) industry is a crucial element in strengthening and sustaining Los Angeles County’s economy. For instance:

• The early child care and education (ECE) industry generates $1.9 billion dollars annually in Los Angeles County
• The ECE industry is expected to generate the sixth highest number of new jobs between 2006 and 2016 of all industries in Los Angeles County
• The ECE Industry currently employs 65,000 people in full-time jobs
• Benefits all industries in the county by enabling parents to work and attend job training/education programs to upgrade skills
• The ECE industry supports the employment of thousands of families whose earnings are estimated at more than $22 billion.

It’s clear that investing in the early care and education industry is a wise investment not only for taxpayers, but for the proper care and development of our children and the future of Los Angeles County. For more information, please contact Jennifer Quinonez at LAUP at 213-416-1838 or email [email protected].