head start kid Waymond Hayes

“Head Start drew me back in because I felt like this is where I belong.”

I was a Head Start kid. I saw how Head Start benefited my mother. She didn’t have a high school diploma or a GED when she enrolled me in Head Start. Through the support and encouragement of Head Start staff though, she went back to school and ultimately earned a master’s degree.

I started volunteering at Head Start in high school. I was a full-time assistant teacher by age 20. I worked my way up from there—teacher, assistant education specialist, family service coordinator, fatherhood specialist, site leader, grant reviewer, and now program director for early education at Focus: HOPE. I’ve pretty much touched every component within the Head Start program.  

I was inspired by what Head Start did for my mother and my family. The more I worked at Head Start early in my career and saw the impact I was making, and the impact other folks were making, I took a career in Head Start more serious.

I’m an advocate for male teachers in early childhood education. I was part of the team that opened the first all-male classroom within the city of Detroit. It’s important for kids to see a positive male figure in the classroom. A lot of kids in urban communities don’t see that, especially in the school systems.

I’m constantly looking to recruit people into the field, especially men. There aren’t enough qualified teachers for all the job opportunities in Head Start. I push people to go to school—no matter what school you go to, go to school and get the degree you need.

I temporarily stopped working in Head Start when I first began pursuing my doctorate in organizational leadership degree. During my brief hiatus from Head Start, I began working at a well-paying corporate job. Despite the money, however, I knew that this work was not sustainable for me long-term in the ways Head Start had always been. Simply put, I missed the familial atmosphere I had become so accustomed to during my time working in Head Start programs. In the end, Head Start drew me back in because I felt like this is where I belong. All these years later, I no longer feel like this is where I belong; I know it.

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