Lifelong Learning in Head Start

Lavesta DeereLifelong learning is “one of the cornerstone values of our agency,” said Lisa Winters, executive director of Crossroads Youth & Family Services. Few personify this value more than Levesta Deere, an Assistant Teacher at Crossroads Youth & Family Services' Learning Tree Head Start/Early Head Start Center in Shawnee, OK. On May 10, 2014, Deere achieved a goal 48 years in the making. At the age of 66, she graduated with an associate's degree in Child Development from Seminole State College. "There is a season for everything,” said Deere. “My first dream was to see my daughter and granddaughter graduate. Now, it was my turn."

Deere credits Head Start with helping her achieve her dream. Prior to working for Crossroads, Deere experienced the loss of her husband, the closing of the daycare where she worked, and a serious health crisis. Deere was one of the first employees hired when Crossroads assumed sponsorship of the Head Start Program in Pottawatomie, Cleveland, and Seminole Counties in 2003. There, Deere was provided with “the warmth and encouragement” to complete her degree. Deere explained, "I was as slow as a turtle in finishing my degree, but I did it! I failed biology in 1966 and promised myself to pass it before I died. That was the last class I needed.”

Deere’s personal drive and commitment extends to her agency and the children it serves. Terrie Vicknair, the education coordinator for Crossroads, said of Deere, "Levesta respects and provides individual care to each child, as if he were the only one in her classroom. She had one little boy in her class who had to be placed in foster care outside the county and no longer would have Levesta as his teacher. When he commented that he would miss her, she drew an imaginary star on his forehead with her finger and said, 'Now every time I look at the night sky and see the stars, I will think of you.' She gave a child seemingly alone in the world a sense of belonging to someone. This is typical of Levesta, because the children in her care mean everything to her.”

Deere has inspiring words for scholars young and old. “My motto is never quit learning,” said Deere, “even when you have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. The best antidote for failure is to succeed.”