The imagination of a child is boundless, and at HCDE Head Start campuses, Harris County’s youngest learners are encouraged to dream big.
Twenty-three-year-old De’Montre Tuggle, a former Coolwood Head Start student, did just that. In November of last year, he was drafted by the XFL’s Arlington Renegades after earning an invitation to the Chicago Bears minicamp.
In 2002, Tuggle was a three-year-old student at Coolwood Head Start. His former teacher, Patricia Kuskos, who was in her first year of teaching, remembers Tuggle and his mother, Elaine Posey.
“De’Montre was really quiet, very caring, and kindhearted,” said Kuskos. “I believe Head Start built his self-esteem because he was very reserved when he came. He left with a rich vocabulary, outgoing, engaged, and very curious. I think when you have a solid foundation and a trusting relationship, a good teacher can help you build social skills.”
“Through the years, he has become more confident now. He’s very confident in who he is and talks more and expresses himself more,” said Posey. “I do believe Head Start had a lot to do with it, especially with Ms. Kuskos, because she saw how smart he was right off the bat and pushed him to go farther.”
Tuggle agrees. After graduating from Channelview High School as a two-time first-team all-district selection, he went on to the University of Central Arkansas, Kilgore College, Ohio University, and eventually, the Chicago Bears.
“Being in all of these different places, like in Chicago around millionaires, and just being able to still be me, I definitely really feel like it started at Head Start,” said Tuggle, who reunited with Kuskos last December after 20 years.
“You get to see them grow with social media, but I’m very excited to see him in person now,” said Kuskos, who has remained friends with Posey, Tuggle’s mother. “De’Montre was the first child of hers that I had in my classroom. Her next child, Angel, was also in my classroom several years later. Education was very important to their family.”
Head Start programs promote the school readiness of infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged children from low-income families. They also provide services to support families in a comprehensive way.
Kuskos, who is still employed with HCDE as an education and special services coordinator for Head Start, believes that parental involvement at Head Start is vital because it establishes engagement in their child’s education for life.
“One of the things with Head Start is that we also want to provide opportunities for parents to grow, and parent involvement is a big component of what we do,” said Kuskos. “Elaine was a very involved volunteer up until the point when she became a Head Start employee. She became the cook at Coolwood.”
Posey recalls her involvement in the program. “It was one of the more fulfilling jobs I’ve had. I love volunteering and I was so involved. I think at one point they were short in the kitchen. I just got in there, and it went from there,” said Posey. “With me being on the inside and seeing the program, I saw they were very good with the kids. I loved how they kept them engaged and introduced them to different things. I have grandbabies now, and we’ll be coming back to the Head Start program.”
Undoubtedly, the support offered by Kuskos has played a role in the success of this family.
“I always tell them once our paths have crossed, you have me for the rest of your life,” said Kuskos with a smile.
“She always made sure to keep in touch with me, whether through my mom or through Facebook I think it means a lot. It shows real genuine care,” said Tuggle.
For Kuskos, sharing Tuggle’s story is about dreaming big.
“America looks up to professional athletes, but it is just as important to get an academic scholarship as it is to get a sports scholarship,” she said. “I think he got a little bit of both—and that’s important.”
Tuggle, who graduated from Ohio University with a bachelor’s degree in physical activity and sport coaching, regularly gives back to his community, mentoring students at Channelview High School and in little leagues in his hometown.
“Education opens up so many opportunities,” said Tuggle. “We definitely had moments growing up where it wasn’t the best situation. My parents always emphasized that they wanted a better life for us than what they had, even though it wasn’t all bad. So, I made sure to take heed of that, and I keep that in mind when whenever I’m in school or on the field.”
The 2023 XFL season begins in mid-February.
To learn more about HCDE’s Head Start program, visit hcde-texas.org/headstart.