Top 10: I Make Kids Cry

Top 10  “Most Opened” Blog Posts of 2019: # 10

By Michael Jeter

Sometimes part of my job is making kids cry.

No, it’s not in my job description, but making kids cry comes with the territory of overseeing STARS Book Clubs, a mentoring and literacy initiative focused on empowering members of churches in Waco to serve the schools around them.  My latest victim was Jose.

For several weeks, Jose and David, two second-grade boys, had been participating in a STARS Book Club.  Their mentor, a stay-at-home mom, would come to their school once a week during their lunchtime, where they’d talk, eat, and practice reading books aloud together.

“I’m sorry buddy, but your mentor can’t come to Book Club today- her son is sick,” I told Jose, as he chose between chicken nuggets and burritos in the cafeteria lunch line.

I didn’t really think it would be that big a deal if Jose missed a week – he had only recently started Book Club, and I doubted he even remembered his mentor’s name.  However, as I saw his face scrunch up as he (unsuccessfully) tried to hold back tears, it hit me again: We rarely realize just how much a caring, consistent adult can impact a child.

Research has shown that every child needs at least one stable, committed, supportive adult in their life to end up doing well, and the children of our city are no exception.  Many students in Waco are facing serious challenges, from poverty and parent incarceration to bullying and depression.  A Book Club mentor coming every week who believes in you, laughs with you and encourages you can be a much-needed emotional support for many students.  For others, the chance in Book Club to grow in reading ability, reading confidence, and a love of reading is just the help they need.  

That help isn’t just a nice thing to do- it’s a crucial intervention as our nation, state and city are in a serious literacy crisis.  Two-thirds of all fourth-graders can’t read on grade level. Third-grade students who can’t read on level are four times more likely to drop out of high school, and if they’re also in poverty, they’re 13 times more likely to drop out.  Without a high school diploma, the probability of everything from future incarceration to joblessness skyrockets.  Even for those who manage their way through high school, a poor reading foundation limits chances of further education or training, good employment, and a living wage.  

In the face of these statistics, we’re seeing an unprecedented movement of 600 people from 35 churches in Waco joining together to serve the students of our city through Book Clubs!  And as we and local businesses and organizations add our efforts to all that teachers and parents are doing, we are starting to see reading scores improve and brighter futures open up for hundreds of students.  Currently our Book Club volunteers meet with more than 1,400 students in Waco every week, another 200 Highland Baptist volunteers read one-on-one with students every week, and hundreds of other volunteers from our city are serving students through similar initiatives.  (To financially sustain this amazing growth of Book Clubs, we’re holding a fundraising Gala on April 29th– we’d love to see you there!)

In the Bible, the book of James says, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds” (James 2:18b).  Volunteers across Waco are putting their faith in action through Book Clubs, loving their neighbors by helping them to succeed in school and in life.  So yes, sometimes I have to bear bad news that will make kids cry, but it’s far outweighed by the joy of seeing greater equity, opportunity and hope grow in the next generation of our city.

Michael Jeter works for the STARS Mentoring Project at Antioch Community Church. He is a Virginia native who found the kind of community in Waco that’s caused him to make this city home for almost a decade.  He and his wife and daughter are excited to meet their newest addition to their family next month!

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 for more information.

“Be the Astronaut” exhibit opens at the Mayborn Museum May 25

Waco, TX—Prepare for lift off and discover what space travel is all about when the Be the Astronaut exhibit opens May 25 at Baylor University’s Mayborn Museum.

Experience the wonders of space and plan a space mission, learn about the technology and math skills required to be an astronaut and fly spaceships, pilot landers and drive rovers in this exciting exhibit.

 “It is our hope that children can come here and let their imagination soar,” said Charles Walter, director of the Mayborn Museum.  “This exhibit will include several dramatic interactive stations that will allow them to learn basic concepts about our solar system, space travel, gravity and more.”

Produced by Eureka Exhibits and designed by NASA engineers, the exhibit aims to put students in the pilot’s seat of a spaceship while providing a birds-eye view of real astronaut pretraining with the use of touch screen stations, artifacts and interactive simulator pods built to look like space capsules.

“This exhibit is designed to not only educate visitors on the reality and

challenges of space travel,” said Walter, “but hopefully inspire a new crop of budding scientists to consider viable career paths in science and technology-related fields that will help shape our nation’s future.”

During this exhibit, visitors will be invited to interact with:

  • Navigation Interactive Stations- where visitors can engage in mission planning as well as learn about orbits and Newton’s laws, gravity, etc.
  • Science Interactive Stations– where visitors can explore the equipment and technology needed to accomplish space travel missions and learn about rockets, space suits and space craft.
  • Flying Capsules- a dramatic big screen experience with pilot and co-pilot adjustable seating and controls. Visitors can launch rockets and land rovers depending on their given mission requirements.
  • Space Suit and vintage space toy displays

The Be the Astronaut exhibit will be on display at the Mayborn Museum from May 25 to Sept. 8.  Entry into the exhibit will be included with general museum admission. Ticket prices are free for Baylor students and members, while tickets for non-members are $8 for adults, $6 for children ages 2-12 and $7 for seniors.

About the Mayborn Museum

The Mayborn Museum Complex at Baylor University provides a wide spectrum oflearning opportunities to engage visitors of all ages.

The exhibits and education programs encourage families to learn together and design their own museum experience. This complex features a natural science and cultural history museum focusing on Central Texas with walk-in dioramas including one of the Waco Mammoth Site. The Mayborn Museum Complex also encompasses a multi-floor science discovery center encouraging hands-on learning for all ages and the Gov. Bill & Vara Daniel Historic Village. The nine wood frame buildings that comprise the village provide a glimpse into the past, bringing to life a community in the 1890s.

The museum’s hours are:      Monday-Saturday 10 am- 5 pm

                                                          Thursday 10 am-8 pm

                                                          Sunday 1 pm-5 pm   

The museum is located at 1300 S. University Parks Drive, Waco, Texas 76706.  For more information, call 254-710-1110 or visit

Curious about Freemasonry?

By Robert William Marshall

Every third Thursday, officers of one of Waco’s most secretive organizations gather in the Saloon at 5th and Austin to engage the public in a sort of information session. The longest existing organization of any kind in McLennan County, Waco Masonic Lodge, decided to start these sessions to counter misinformation that has grown rampant in recent years. “Freemasonry: Facts and Fiction” is an opportunity for the public to ask questions about freemasonry, its impact on Waco history, and it current activities in the community. Some of Waco’s biggest names were members of the lodge: Sul Ross, Pat Neff, Lehman Sanger, Roger Conger, et al. Even the inventor of Dr Pepper, Charles Alderton, once spent a year as the leading officer of the Waco Masons.

Freemasonry is a fraternal system of philosophy and charitable efforts with two goals: 1. Improve the community and 2. Improve one’s self. Many conspiracy theories have abounded through the years regarding the secretive nature of the Masons and Waco Masonic Lodge is using the Backyard Saloon as a neutral ground venue to let people discuss those theories with real Masons who can share the truth. Currently, more than 500 of the Waco area’s leading citizens are Masons. Many of them have differing views on politics and religion but have found a way through the lodge’s teaching to come together in brotherhood and work towards a greater good. The Masons have given thousands of dollars in scholarships over just the past few years. Historically, they contributed in many ways to the community.

It was the Masons who originally built and owned the Suspension Bridge, laid the cornerstones or served as architects for most of Waco’s historic churches, donated land that became Cameron Park, and many other activities that have continuously benefited the Heart of Texas community. Several Waco Mayors, three Texas governors, Waco history’s most important photographer, and a few famous sports figures are found on the old membership rolls of Waco Masonic Lodge. Even the “Father of Waco,” George Erath, whose statue stands in front of the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame & Museum, was a San Jacinto veteran and charter member of Waco Masonic Lodge. In the early 1900s, the Lodge was successful in attracting the governing body of Texas Masons which is still located in Waco on Columbus Avenue today. Known as the Masonic Grand Lodge of Texas, the stupendous edifice houses a museum dedicated to those who died in WWII. It is open to the public five days a week and affords Wacoans the opportunity to see such artifacts as Sam Houston’s handgun or a lock of his hair, a flag that flew during the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and even items that belonged to Nazi German soldiers. There is also a 2,000 person auditorium that is available for rent as well as a library containing many early Waco books and manuscripts.

Though they peaked at a quarter million in the 1960s, the Masons of Texas still number 70,000 today. The Texas Masonic Charities Foundation enables millions of dollars of giving to local students and other worthy causes while the Masonic Hospitals(Scottish Rite and Shrine) provide medical care to needy children.

The relationship between Waco Masonic Lodge and the Saloon began at its sister venue, The Backyard, a couple years ago with the annual Waco Masonic Concert. This event has enabled the public to join the lodge in supporting Waco ISD students on their way to college and have fun while doing it! It was originally organized by current lodge leader Dave McHam and historian Robert Marshall and takes place during the annual statewide Masonic convention held here in Waco every January while 3,000 Masons are in town.

So, maybe your grandfather was a Mason and you want to know what that really means. Or, perhaps, you saw the film “National Treasure” and are curious about just how influential Freemasonry was in the formation of our country. Maybe you just want an excuse to meet some new people. Whatever the case, consider joining Waco Masonic Lodge at the Saloon every third Thursday night. You shouldn’t go expecting to learn all the secrets, though, and make no mistake about it. According to lodge historian Robert Marshall, there are secrets. “We certainly have secrets. It is well known that we have secret handshakes and passwords and the like. We even have secret catechisms meant to train new members in the ancient art of Freemasonry. While you won’t be learning any secrets at the Saloon, you can find out more about what the secrets are and, more importantly, what they are not.”

Robert William Marshall is a 7th generation Wacoan whose 1800s ancestor worked as a tollkeeper on the Suspension Bridge. He graduated from Robinson High School in 2008, Baylor University in 2012, and has been an officer of Waco Masonic Lodge for 10 years. 

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 for more information.

Homecoming at The Cove: Reflecting on the Commitment to Love

By Amy Jimenez, Cove Board Member

I was busy rushing around the hallways of the Cove adding last minute touches to the decorations for our first Annual Alumni Dinner. The Cove staff, board members, and volunteers had worked hard to make the Cove feel special to welcome home our Cove Scholars who graduated the past two years. Our theme was “Welcome Home,” a homecoming of sorts, and we hoped the night would feel just that for our students: like home.

He walked through the door a few minutes early, and to me, it was Deja vu. He was home. He was our first student ever to walk through the doors of the Cove on the first day it opened in October 2016. He was the same student whose eyes lit up at the Marvel art on the walls and said, “This place is for me?”

He jumped right in to help me put the silverware and napkins on the table. I yelled his name in excitement and he just smiled and said that not much had changed. He shared that he was trying to survive college and that it was a lot harder than he ever thought it would be. I encouraged him that he was already 3/4th of the way of finishing his first year, that in itself is a huge accomplishment. Not everyone makes it that far.

The other students began to pour in. They immediately found their spots and rhythm as though time had not even passed. The hallways filled with laughter and chatter, as old and new volunteers, staff, and students reminisced.

Current Cove Scholars lovingly decorated a Welcome Home sign that sprawled the dining room entrance. Our graduates admired it and asked how certain students were doing.

The Cove is a nurturing center for youth experiencing homelessness. Our goals are to ensure students have the opportunity to thrive. In Waco ISD, approximately 1,000 students were identified as homeless in the 2017-2018 school year. 335 of those students were in high school, and at least 1/3 of them were unaccompanied, which means they were not living with their parent or legal guardian. What does this mean?

It means many of our students are experiencing homelessness on their own. They are couch surfing—staying place to place—but are still attending school and trying their best to graduate. They are missing the adult support at home to encourage them to show up to class, do their work, and make it across that stage at graduation. That is where the Cove comes in.

The Cove offers a safe environment Monday through Thursday, 4 – 8pm, for students to access showers, mental healthcare, case management, a family-style dinner, healthy snacks, an optional workout program, washer/dryer, tutoring services, educational programming through community partners. The Cove is filled with loving, caring adults that want to ensure our students have every opportunity to finish high school and become thriving adults. The past two years, we have seen 31 of our Cove Scholars graduate from high school and enter into adulthood prepared to succeed.

At our Alumni Dinner, the warmth that filled the room brought to mind every person in our Waco community who has committed their love to the Cove. Every dinner made, every hour tutored, every dollar donated, every Uno game played—these were the memories students rattled off, and these commitments have changed the course of our students’ lives. I am thankful for a community like ours, who comes alongside our most vulnerable community members and gives them care, opportunity, value, and empowerment. The deep connections that are built here change the trajectory of all our lives, and I believe Waco is better for it.

Haven’t been to the Cove? We would love for you to schedule a tour! Also, please consider donating. Your commitment will impact students by providing a safe place for them this summer, as well as all throughout the year!

The Cove is currently seeking volunteers this summer so we can be open to meet the needs of our students. The Cove will be open June-August from 12pm-4pm, so our students can have a safe place to be, catch up on school work or prepare for STAAR tests or college entrance exams, and to have access to the important resources they need. If you would like to support the work at the Cove, please visit

Amy Jimenez is a community member of Waco and lives with her family in the Brookview neighborhood. She is a licensed social worker with Waco ISD who proudly works alongside youth who are experiencing homelessness. She serves on the board of the Cove, alongside many in our Waco community who devote their time, love, and expertise to ensure students have the opportunity to thrive. She is a proud wife, Baylor Bear, follower of Jesus, and is loving her new role as a first-time mom. 

Lemonade Day is coming!

By Nathan Embry

Lemonade Day is coming!  We are well underway, working with the enthusiasm and energy that this ambitious program deserves.  

For those of you who are not yet familiar with Lemonade Day,  it is program that encourages kids to become entrepreneurs by creating their very own small business: a lemonade stand.  The program started in Houston in 2007 and has grown from serving 2,700 kids in one city to involving 1 million children across North America – including Waco!  This year we are thrilled to have well over 100 kids participating.

Kids in all parts of Waco have the optimism and energy to become successful entrepreneurs. Through the Lemonade Day program, parents, teachers and mentors sign up to guide kids through lessons that help turn that optimism and energy into business success.

They begin by teaching students to have a dream and vision, then create a business plan, and finally, they execute the plan by building and running a real Lemonade Stand on Lemonade Day –  May 4!  

The curriculum has many exciting aspects that we love to talk about:  

1.  It encourages the kids to find business partners, or investors, to invest in their lemonade stand. They ask for loans to get started and are expected to pay the investors back.

2.  Kids need to pick a spot for their stand in Waco.  This allows them to discover real-life lessons in real estate, like traffic counts and commercial areas of the city.

3.  The book the kids receive talks about budgeting, income, expenses, and goal setting.

These basic business lessons plant the seeds for kids to start thinking of themselves as entrepreneurs when they get older.

Another awesome part of this program is that it teaches kids to save and give as well as to spend on themselves. Students research then select a nonprofit they want to support.  They are encouraged to donate a portion of their profits to that charity.

On a micro level, we know the program is working. The kids that participate love the idea of making their own money and being the boss of their company for a day.  Studies from previous years show participants improving in problem-solving by 82%, self-esteem by 84% and major improvement in communication skills by 86%!

We currently have 115 kids registered.  Many of the kids are working in groups, so we will have around 30 lemonade stands spread out around Waco on May 4. If you want to help, there are several ways you can get involved:

Participate – Would your kids or a kid you know like to participate in Lemonade Day? Registration is nearing the end for this year, but a few slots are still available.  If it’s too late for this year, consider signing up for next year. Contact me for more information by emailing Nathan Embry at

Donate – Donations can be made to this local effort that will go only to the Waco Lemonade day,  and Waco kids.  Contact me for more information by emailing Nathan Embry at .

Enjoy some Lemonade! – The most important way you can support Lemonade Day and Waco’s young entrepreneurs is to shop Lemonade Day! On May 4, find a lemonade stand in Waco and spend a few dollars on some lemonade.  They can only count the money they earn.

This year we are lucky to have several sponsors that believe in the youth of Waco and want to see this program succeed.  Local companies like Texas First State Bank, H-E-B, Canes Chicken, Baylor University, Stiba Wealth Management, KWTX, The Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, Stan Parker, the Northwest Optimist Club, Watermill Express, and Lemy’s Soft Freeze Lemonade have donated time, money or services for this to be a success.

We are off to a great start.  With so many talented kids in all parts of Waco, there is great potential to bring this fun educational program to many more people in the coming years.  With your help this year on May 4, we know we will see many young entrepreneurs running successful businesses all across Waco.

Nathan Embry is the City Director for Lemonade Day and works in commercial real estate. He has lived in Waco for 11 years and hopes to never leave. He faces each day with his best friend/wife, Emily (Toots).  Together they do the best they can raising two children, Reagan and Madison. You might find the Embry’s serving on city boards, feeding the homeless, helping tourists downtown, and patronizing local businesses.

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 for more information.