A vibrant way of life
December 5, 2016
Though the halls of Wenatchee High School walks a man with a bright beard and brighter personality, leaving passing students in wonder of just who he is.
Today the mystery is put to an end. Meet the man behind the beard, Deandre Lester.
Lester was born and raised in Chicago, and when he reached college age he was ready to branch out. He first attended Michigan State, and transferred to Illinois State shortly after.
Being a college student, Lester really had no concrete plans about where he wanted his life to take him yet. But life does go on and took Lester right along with it, so he decided to go out for his bachelor’s in biology.
“When people go off to college they don’t always really know what they want to do. I did have this idea in my mind that went go to college…and, boom, have life planned out. So I went to school to study biology, and found out that I hated all of the classes. I hated amino acids, I hated hormones, I didn’t even like the sight of blood… but I had already invested three years of my life in this degree, so I couldn’t just turn around and do something else. What would I do?”
Lester continued on his path and ended up graduating with his bachelor’s in biology. This is where he hit another roadblock: what would he do after college?
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I knew I liked volunteering and giving back, but I didn’t know where to go from there. Then I realized that I had never left the country, I’ve never explored, I’ve never traveled, I’ve never seen different ways of life… A friend of mine told me about this program called the Peace Corps, as he was thinking about joining himself, and so I researched it and ended up really liking the idea.”
The Peace Corps is a volunteer program run by the United States that tries to help promote world peace and friendship. By sending American citizens away to various other countries, they promote an exchange of culture between America and other countries, while aiding developmental processes.
Lester was ecstatic about this idea, and decided to take the journey through the long two and a half week application process. During this time, he also started working at a pharmacy in his college town.
“Before I applied, I have to admit that I really did think I was the cream of the crop,” Lester said, “I looked at myself and was very proud — I had a degree in biology, I worked at a pharmacy, and I volunteered a lot through mentor programs and was also past of the big brother organization. I was sure I was going to get in.”
The Brick Wall
Lester didn’t get in.
“The denial definitely humbled me, and showed me that I still had work to do,” Lester said.
He was determined to move on, and figure out the next step to his journey. “I said to myself that I need a change of location, I need a change of career, I need a change of everything. When they denied me from the Peace Corps they told me that I didn’t have enough experience working with children, so that encouraged me to come to this other organization, called AmeriCorps, to get that experience.”
The AmeriCorps is a volunteer civil society program, which, once one applies and is accepted, will position them in different specters of work all over the United States. It is essentially a domestic version of the Peace Corps, and volunteers can either spend ten months or a year of their time in a new location to help meet critical community needs in education, public safety, health, and the environment.
Lester ended up applying to become a math intervention tutor at Orchard Middle School. After five interviews, he got the position, and had to face the transition from Chicago to Wenatchee.
“I had never heard of Wenatchee before — I didn’t even know how to pronounce it. I didn’t know what to expect. But I decided to go for it because I really wanted something new in life.”
Life in Wenatchee
Lester moved to Wenatchee on Oct. 1, 2015, and has much to say about the community.
“I love kids, I love the youth, and I was really excited to work with them, but I will admit that I did not want to teach them,” Lester said, “Then I moved here, and let me just say, my world has been changed. I love Wenatchee. I see why people never leave, or if they do they often come back. It’s a great community, and I enjoy being here. Working with the students has been awesome, and I think that one of the best decisions in my life has been to join the AmeriCorps.”
He has gotten to know some of the students on a personal level, and will go through the lunch lines by their sides and eat with them.
“[In] Wenatchee, I realized that I not only did I like being around children, I liked teaching them as well,” Lester said.
So Lester reapplied to the Peace Corps.
“It took me a long time to try to convince myself to reapply. But I knew it was something I’m passionate about. So if this was something I really wanted to do, I’d just have to figure out how to get in.”
Looking into his Future
This time, Lester got what he wanted.
He has been accepted into the Peace Corps, and will be moving to Jakarta, Indonesia, in March. He will be teaching English to kids from anywhere from seventh to eleventh grade. His program will last 27 months — the first three of which will be spent learning the language and culture. After this training, he will be placed in another school.
Currently, his 10 months in the Americorp are over and his days in Wenatchee are also nearing the end.
“I wouldn’t have wanted this — moving to Wenatchee and being able to experience what I’ve experienced — to happen any other way. I love being here, and I would never have ended up being here if I hadn’t gotten accepted to the Peace Corps the first time.”
The Real Question
“There are two reasons why I dyed my beard. For one, there are a lot of bald people with beards in the world. And I’m all about being my own person. And I didn’t want to be just another bald guy on the street with a beard. So I dyed mine — I actually usually dye it every three months. Secondly, not to sound hubris, but I know I’m a great person, and so I wanted something to express my effervescent personality, something to get people thinking ‘oh that guy is cool,’ without me having to tell you. I guess I just needed something to show you who I was without having to tell you who I am yet.”