Tillie Allgood is stuck, and she’ll tell you so herself.
But it’s not a bad thing.
Tillie is a teacher for Head Start at the South Central Community Action Program in Bloomington, where she provides a classroom experience for 3- to 5-year-old children of low-income families. She’s been involved in the program since she herself was in school, serving in almost every role there is.
As a teenager, Tillie put in countless hours of volunteer work while her own brother was involved in the program. When it came time for her own children, Patricia and Patrick, now 19 and 20, to become enrolled in school, she said the choice to start them at Head Start was only logical.
Tillie then served on the Council of Involved Families and worked as a sub for three years. She has been able to get her certification to drive a bus, her Associates degree, her Child Development Associate certification, and she is working on her Bachelor’s degree, all things she said she probably wouldn’t have been able to do without the help of Head Start.
After her own children graduated from the program, Tillie took a full-time position. She hasn’t left for 14 years.
In that time, Tillie has seen a lot of kids pass through. She’s even had a future State Spelling Bee champion start out in her class.
said some families need a little more guidance than others, and when
that’s the case, Head Start works to connect the family with
resources that will help support them through the years.
Other times, she said, parents just aren’t sure how to get what their kids need and need a little guidance. Tillie recalled one family of young parents who had six kids at the time. She said they knew they needed to get their children in school, but they weren’t sure exactly what to do.
They found Head Start, and Tillie had every one of their kids in class. She said as each kid passed through, they were more and more prepared, picking up on things from those that came before.
“The growth of that family was astounding,” Tillie said. “The support that we were able to deliver within that poverty…was just an amazing thing.”
She said the kids are now entering high school and are involved in a lot of main stream activities like sports.
Yet, she said the relationships with the family don’t end when kids graduate from the program and move on.
“Even after each child left, we were able to provide support just by being a safe place to ask questions,” she said.
But the kids in Tillie’s class aren’t the only successful aspect of Head Start in Tillie’s life. She’s seen this deep connection to the program in her own kids, who she said support the program “210 percent.”
They were both involved in Head Start as kids and have spent time volunteering and supporting their mom as they’ve gotten older.
She said her son, Patrick, spent a lot of time helping out with the playground. “One minute he’d be shoveling mulch, and the next he’d be in here lying on the floor and playing with the kids,” she said. “I think that shows the kind of belief they have in this program.”
This is a good example of how Tillie says the Head Start program forms a tight and lasting bond—a family. As her son was preparing to move out of the house after graduation, she said he told her not to be sad because she “still had her Head Start kids, and they need you”
This attachment is exactly what Tillie says makes the Head Start family unique: Once you’re in, and once you believe in the program, you’re stuck.
“Those friendships and those relationships are long-lasting,” she said.
She encourages those who don’t know about the program to come in and experience the classroom for themselves.
“There’s something here for everyone,” Tillie said. “Regardless of the need or level, there’s something here for everyone.”
Tillie Allgood is stuck, and she’d tell you so herself.
But it’s a good thing.