Prosper Waco: Working Groups are Getting Down to Business
By Matthew Polk
Prosper Waco has picked up momentum over the last several weeks! The Prosper Waco Board of Directors ratified the measurable goals developed by the three Steering Committees, and working groups focused on each of the goals have begun meeting to develop collaborative strategies for achieving them.
These working groups, centered on each of the Education, Health, and Financial Security goals, serve as a venue for partners to dialogue about strategies that can move our community forward. This is the nitty-gritty—community members coming together to sit down and dive deep into conversations that will lead to implementable strategies.
Each working group has met at least once in the past couple of weeks. Working groups will continue to meet over the next two months. Then, in October, each group will present the strategies they have developed to their Steering Committee.
Here is a quick update on the progress of each working group. For full minutes from each working group and a calendar of working group meetings, please visit our website.
Kindergarten Readiness: Members of this working group are focusing on increasing the percentage of kindergarten-ready students in our community. Numerous early childhood organizations were represented in this meeting. Dr. Mary Konrad, Early Childhood Education Coordinator for Waco ISD, spoke about the pre-K assessment that the district uses to assess each child’s readiness to succeed in Kindergarten. Members discussed ways to align their work around the school readiness components identified by WISD and created a list of key partners in the Waco community whose work impacts the success of children as they enter school.
Post-Secondary Success: Members are focused on doubling the percentage of economically-disadvantaged students who complete a workforce certificate or college degree. The discussion of the definition of workforce certificate was discussed, and various resources were distributed to the group so that a collective definition could be agreed upon at the next meeting. The group also compiled a list of additional partners needed to drive a community-wide approach to post-secondary success.
Family Engagement: Although there is not a measurable goal directly related to this working group, the Education Steering Committee recognized from the outset that family engagement is a priority issue for improving education in our community. Molly Young, Waco ISD’s Director of Community Development, is the chair of this group. In its last meeting, group members discussed different strategies to best engage families in the educational process and how to connect Waco families to community resources.
Access to Care: The goals for this working group are to the increase percentage of people covered by health insurance by at least 1 percent per year and to decrease the percentage of people utilizing the ER as a source of primary care by 10 percent. Like the Obesity and Women’s Health working groups, the Access to Care working group has been active for the last couple of years as part of the Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) committee, one of the initiatives that laid the foundation for Prosper Waco.
Obesity: This working group discussed strategies around high, medium and low impact ways to reduce obesity among Waco residents and how to best utilize the resources that are already in place. For example, a strategy to increase activity levels in adults and children is to use the joint-use agreement (JUA) facilities around the Waco community that are available to residents. Also, the strategy of an active living plan based on evidence-based strategies for ways residents can become active and lead healthier lifestyles was a main topic of conversation.
Women’s Health: Members of the women’s health group are thoughtfully considering how best to collect data to drive evidence-based strategies for meeting their goals. The group agreed to look at what other communities have done in terms of programs to reduce disparities of poor birth outcomes, increase the percentage of women receiving annual preventive care, and reduce the rate of teen pregnancy across all racial groups.
Mental Health: A variety of mental health professionals attended this meeting. Existing mental health resources were identified, and the group discussed other strategies targeted at decreasing use of local emergency rooms for mental health treatment and improving the “poor mental health days” component of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s County Health Rankings to the Texas average.
Employment: We had a great turn out at this meeting. During the first meeting, members spoke about who else from the community should be included to add depth to the working group. Dialogue focused on what strategies would increase employment of Waco residents ages 16-24, with the goal of cutting unemployment of this group by half over the next five years.
Income: The income working group is focused on connecting Waco-area residents to job training and employment opportunities in order to increase the median income of people living in our community with a focus on those earning the least. The group’s discussion focused on how to build a pipeline that would effectively connect workers to employers so that opportunities for earning more income are available to more people in the community and employers benefit from a more skilled workforce.
Wealth: Helping our community build wealth means helping more families build a foundation for financial security in their lives. This starts with providing people in our community access to tools and information for managing their money and building savings that will get them through financial ups and downs. For others, building wealth means moving toward homeownership or investing in others assets that will improve their family’s net worth and financial security.
Typically, working groups meet twice a month based on the best available time for the members. You can check the calendar on our website for a list of all past and upcoming meetings! Working groups are open to all community members, regardless of your expertise in the three impact areas. Having different perspectives from community members at the working group meetings will lead to better, well-rounded strategies that will positively impact a broader range of Waco residents.
We know there are many people in the community who want to be part of the Prosper Waco initiative but cannot meet during the day due to their jobs or other responsibilities. We understand this and are working to figure out an evening time that works best for community members to be part of the discussion about meeting our shared goals.
To become involved in a working group, please email our Community Engagement Coordinator, Jillian, at [email protected], or call her at 254-741-0081. Get involved in this community-wide initiative and have a positive impact on your community!
This Act Locally Waco Blog post was written by Matthew Polk. Matthew is Executive Director of Prosper Waco. Prior to that, he served as Superintendent of Rapoport Academy Public School. He and his wife attended Baylor, and after spending a few years in the northeast, they returned to Waco to raise their family. They have four children, ages 8 to 3 months. You can contact him at [email protected].
The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.