Gautier noticed her son thrive after he was enrolled at the JD Walker Head Start Center in 2003. In addition to McKinney’s new-found independence at a young age, Gautier remembers he entered kindergarten more advanced than his peers and immediately started in the gifted-and-talented program.
“The Head Start program is not a daycare,” said Gautier. “It’s an educational program that prepares young children for their future and helps build their self-confidence and self-motivation.”
In addition to providing children with academic and socialization skills they need before entering elementary school, Head Start also works with families to provide additional financial, health, nutritional and parenting resources, which was valuable to Gautier.
While McKinney attended Head Start, Gautier was encouraged to get involved in the Policy Council. While her son was gaining confidence in the classroom, Gautier found her confidence as a parent volunteer and leader. She led the group as president, honed her public speaking skills and received three job promotions after her experience on the council.
“The support I received from Head Start when I was having a difficult time helped form the foundation for the hard-working, dedicated student that Bryan is today,” said Gautier.
McKinney currently fulfills his passion for music through the Humble High School Band, Symphony, and Jazz Band, and is part of the Category 5 and Caliente ensembles outside of school. The well-rounded 16-year-old also excels academically and is involved in AVID club, Key Club and is a Top Teen of America member.
While Gautier is proud of her son’s academic and musical accomplishments, she is most proud of the hard-working role model he has become for others.
“He is passionate, kind and is a good friend to his peers,” said Gautier. “He also sets an example for his younger brother and encourages everyone in the house to do their part as a family.”
McKinney hopes to attend college in the future to study business and minor in music. Although he knows there will be challenges ahead, the dedicated student enjoys working hard to secure his future.