Celease Coxen and Rosa Williams celebrated a career milestone last Friday after 30 years of serving the community with the Lafourche Parish Head Start. Both ladies were hired on November 12, 1991 as teachers and have shown an astonishing commitment to educating the youth.
“Their story is really cool. They actually walked in, applied, and got the job on the spot. They were hired by Ms. Betty Wallace, eventually moving into the family program between 1999- 2003,” says Head Start Supervisor Nikki Ougel. “Since I’ve been supervising them I can truly say these two ladies have a heart for serving children and families, which is evident in their longevity of being here and their commitment to our head start program.”
Celease Coxen says while home on Fall break from McNeese State University, she began searching for a summer job that turned into a 30-year career. “It came unexpectedly. I came home for the fall break and decided I wanted to find a job. I walked into head start to apply; Ms. Betty Wallace interviewed me and I got the job on the spot.” Coxen began her journey as a teacher at the Kindercare Daycare Center, teaching three days out of the week. In January 2003, Head Start promoted Coxen to a permanent position as a family involvement specialist, the current pole she serves today.
“I accepted the position as an involvement specialist because I wanted to serve the community of Thibodaux, and I love it. It isn’t about the money. I have parents that I taught whose children are enrolled now and they remember me from when they were children.”
In her role as a Family Involvement Specialist, Coxen serves as an advisor and motivator to children in the community. “I’m glad I am a part of Head Start because I’ve witnessed the growth in families and young teenagers who were homeless, suicidal, and experiencing hardships. I was always a part of their lives and encouraged them to continue to fight through obstacles, and it’s a blessing to be that second voice in their lives.”
“I really love my job, I look forward to coming to work every morning, there’s never a dull morning. Are there challenges? Yes, but figure it out together and work through them like family” Coxen added.
In addition to dedicating 30 years of teaching, Coxen earned her Bachelor of Arts in Human Services from McNeese University and plans to help to continue serving families in the community.
Rosa Williams accompanied Coxen on her trip to Head Start on that November day in 1991, both ladies left with a job and the beginning of a fulfilling career. Williams began her journey as a teacher at one of the first head start schools in Avoyelles Parish. “I’m 61 years old, and they say I’m one of the people that helped lay the bricks to Head Start. I’ve had students who are now parents to my current students; it’s a great feeling.”
Williams, a 1982 graduate of Southern University in Baton Rouge, had previous experience working as a teacher in Jefferson Parish. She was hired on the spot alongside Coxen, and thirty years later she reflects on a memorable day. “When we went in to apply, the first thing Ms.Betty Wallace said was, ‘Well we need teachers here’, being the only one with the experience I was assigned to train Celease.”
Williams credits the positive work environment provided by management and the love received from her students for her longevity with the program. “My coworkers are awesome to work with, having coworkers that you can talk to about anything is amazing,” said Williams “To hear the children say I love you Miss Rosa, I love you Miss Celease, is an amazing feeling as an educator.”
In 2017, Williams earned her Masters Degree in Counseling and says she doesn’t plan on retiring anytime soon. “They ask me am I ready to retire, I tell them I’m fine, I’m not ready to. I can’t express enough how much I enjoy getting up for work every morning. I am blessed and highly favored.”
Supervisor Nikki Ougel says the ladies’ commitment to the parents and children of the community is astonishing and the program is very lucky to have them. “When you work together for so long you become family, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t receive a phone call from Celease and Rosa.”
Ougel says Coxen and William’s family values and dedication is what the Head Start Program is all about. “That’s how they treat their family with a big loving heart and the utmost respect, we’re so blessed to have both of them.”