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She went to Head Start as a child. Now she’s the Dallas agency’s first Black female president

Laura Cobb Hayes, a retired educator, attributes her inspiration to work at Head Start to her teaching career.

When Laura Cobb Hayes taught math at Hillcrest High School in the 1980s, many of her colleagues were concerned about raising students' test scores.

While Hayes knew benchmarks were important, she also cared about another reality.

“[Teaching is] difficult to do if your child is hungry,” Hayes said. “I’m trying to teach you how to solve systems of equations, but you didn’t have any breakfast this morning. You don’t really understand how solving systems of equations is going to help you."

Today, Hayes is the board president of Head Start of Greater Dallas: She is the agency’s first Black female president.

“What I love about Head Start [is] we take care of all of those things.”

Seated in March, “right after the world turned upside down,” two other Black women joined Hayes in leadership shortly afterward: the agency’s CEO and vice president.

“This is the first time that the organization has been completely led by African-Americans and African-American females,” said Hayes, who worked in education for 35 years as a teacher and administrator.

“It’s pretty exciting.”

The three of them have had to learn how to lead the agency — established in 1988 — in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, which has halted or postponed many in-person services and gatherings for the past six months.


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