Read locally Waco: How Living at the Zoo Leads to Trouble

Read Locally Waco is a project to promote literacy in Waco.  Throughout the semester we will post stories that use sight words our children are learning in Waco ISD.  You can print these stories and lists of words to use with your children or with other children in your life.  This week’s story uses words from the First Grade Sight Word List.  For a printable version of this story and word list, click here: How Living at the Zoo Leads to Trouble  .

How Living at the Zoo Leads to Trouble

The teacher frowned and asked me why I do the things I do.
I told her all the trouble starts with living at the zoo.

A monkey and a panda bear, a piglet and a snake …
All moved into the room next door.  They’re keeping me awake!

The monkey plays the guitar.  The panda bangs on cans.
The piglet kicks the wall all night.  The snake beats pots and pans.

They call it making music.  They practice every day.
They think they sound fantastic.  (To me they’re just OK.)

So, I didn’t get to sleep last night till way, way after dark.
All the animals were snoring. I could hear them through the park.

I got up very early to pick out my clothes to wear,
But, the tiger swiped my shoes and socks and took them to her lair.

She would not give them back to me. She made me beg and beg.
And while I was distracted, the rhino ate my eggs!

The Lion woke up hungry, licked his lips and grinned at us.
So, I had to feed the lion, even if I missed the bus.

The zebra stole my mom’s new car.  The cheetah took my bike.
The hippo flattened granny’s truck, it was a sad, sad sight…

Because of this I had to walk at least a million miles.
And when I finally got to school, I wasn’t full of smiles.

I’m tired and mad and hungry.  I hardly slept a wink!
It’s true I pulled Chameka’s hair.  She deserved it, don’t you think?

First Grade Sight Words in this Story

  • All
  • Back
  • This
  • With
  • Night
  • Why
  • Was
  • Don’t
  • Give
  • Of
  • Were
  • Because
  • Every
  • New
  • Walk
  • Her
  • Had
  • Day

This Act Locally Waco blog post is by Ashley Bean Thornton, she has lived in Waco almost 20 years now. Far longer than she ever lived anywhere else. She likes to walk. If you see her out walking, honk and wave and say “hi!”

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.

“Special” to “All:” Join the Pride

by Bill Gaventa

This month is Autism Awareness Month. The Heart of Texas Autism Network sponsors a number of wonderful activities in pursuit of recognizing children and adults on the autism spectrum as full members of our communities. Last month was Developmental Disabilities Month and well as national Traumatic Brain Injury Month. March also included an international Down Syndrome Day (March 21).The last week of September is an International Deaf Awareness Week.  October is both national Disability Employment Month, and National Mental Illness month, followed by November as national Alzheimer’s Awareness month, a month started by a proclamation from Ronald Reagan. There are multiple others. One could go on and on.

What’s more, each of those awareness months and days compete with other kinds of awareness campaign that have nothing to do with disabilities.  You name it. There is probably a day for it. I remember a commentary about all of this on NPR a long time ago, with the speaker yearning for the possibilities of a “National Nothing Day,” one that would probably be appreciated by many as long as they did not have to sign declarations about it, lead public relations campaigns, or do the multiple other things that one has to do in order to help one of these days or months become something more than “in name only.”

Of course, all of these groups know that awareness is something they yearn for all year round. There are daily needs that go unseen and unmet, assumptions and stereotypes that go unchallenged, and both people and caregivers who go forgotten and unsupported.

Many also know there is a double edge to special awareness days, weeks, or months.  Calling anything “special” can unwittingly imply that that people are more different than alike, that special skills are needed to be human and hospitable with another, and that specialized programs are more important than friendship and being part of neighborhoods, congregations, clubs, and community activities of all kinds.  Hopefully, one day, “special” becomes unnecessary, because everyone is treated as unique and valued, receivers and givers, citizens and potential friends. Everybody, as Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie

says in a famous TED talk, is more than a single story. In fact, she says it more forcefully: There is danger in being seen as having a single story.

But we are not there yet. People with disabilities, their families and friends, and organizations that support them all need supporters and allies as the work of weaving people into community life goes on, and they are known as people with multiple interests, gifts, and stories.

If you stopped for a moment to ask, “Do any of these groups work together, the answer is “Yes.” Waco is lucky enough to have several organizations that seek to link these individuals, families, organizations and services together. One of them is the Waco Mayor’s Committee for Disabilities.

It’s a mouthful of a name. It sounds formal and official, but truth be told, it is neither. It is one of those organizations that only exists because of the voluntary commitment and work of the people and organizations who choose to be involved.   No one’s paid.  We get by financially with the help of our friends, organizations and businesses who help donate to, and sponsor, two major events each year for people with disabilities, their families and friends: The Starry Night Holiday Celebration during the Christmas season, and Join the Pride, the upcoming free day at Cameron Park Zoo (April 22) that also serves as an information and resource fair for people with disabilities, their families, and friends.

What else do we do?  We have been thinking about that, and have a vision of serving as a collaborative, active network that can (1) respond as a team to people and families searching for services and supports, (2) share information with one another on new and exciting ideas and supports, and (3) work together across disability labels and organizations to support one another and to meet needs we cannot by ourselves.

Many cities established Mayor’s Committees several decades ago. Many of those have withered on the vine. Some key people in McLennan County, including Darlene Nobles of Signs of the Times, Anita Karney of the Heart of Texas Autism Network, and Kelly Yarbrough, formerly of DARS but now of the Texas Workforce Coalition, have helped keep the Waco Committee alive. Now there are new voices wanting to strengthen current projects and do things together that we cannot do separately. The key phrase these days in human services, as in other arenas, is taken straight from the farm:  Get out of our silos and talk to one another.

Anyone’s welcome to join in as a member (no dues), participant, advocate, and worker. If you come with curiosity, we can hopefully answer questions. You don’t need to fill out forms. If you come with ideas and dreams, be prepared to work on them.  We may not yet have all the supports and services people need, but through this Committee and network, you’ll have allies, people willing to listen, and others willing to celebrate the wide diversity of ways that people and groups in Waco are working to give everyone the chance to participate in the community as they wish. As Waco begins to grow and thrive, let’s help the lives of those with one form of disability or another flourish as well, and become known more for their grit, gifts, and desire to contribute to this community as well.

How to get started? Email, and Like the Waco Mayor’s Committee for Disabilities on Facebook. Put out a question there. And share information. Find out about next meetings. (usually once a month) Come to Join the Pride on Sunday, April 22, and meet a bunch of the people involved.  Join the Pride started because the lion’s pride at Cameron Park Zoo once had a lion who was shunned by the others because of a disability. So the founders wanted to be part of her pride, at least symbolically. Now, we have a zoo that is known for its skills in rehabilitation of animals, and multiple support organizations seeking to help individuals and families feel pride in their own lives and community.  We need dreamers and workers. Everyone has gifts. It is our job together to find ways to use them.

Here’s the information about Join the Pride… be sure to register online so we have an idea who is coming.  To request free tickets for families with special needs children, adults with disabilities, or veterans with disabilities and a guest, visit: or email

To sponsor a family or for a free booth register at:

Bill Gaventa is the Current Co-Chair, Waco Mayor’s Committee for Disabilities.  He is an  ordained Baptist minister currently serving as the Director of the Summer Institute on Theology and Disability and the national Collaborative on Faith and Disability. Bill’s pastoral career has been in a variety of roles at the intersections of faith and disability, including community supports with people with disabilities, training for clergy, seminarians and community services staff, aging and end of life/grief issues in intellectual and developmental disabilities, cultural competence, and community building. He served as the President of American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities for 2016-2017.  He and his wife Beverly moved to Waco in 2013 where she serves as Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Baylor University.  In Waco, Bill serves on the Mayor’s Committee on Disabilities, the Board of the Arc of McLennan County, and the Professional Network Advisory Committee of the Heart of Texas Region MH/MR Center. You can email Bill at

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.


The Northern Triangle: Using an exhibit to spark an important conversation about the refugee crisis

By Andrew Patterson, Kristopher Ruiz & Caroline Capili

400 hundred years ago, immigrants from all over the world boarded ships to escape persecution, to start a new life. A life free from fear, a life with endless possibilities, a life with hope for a better future. Today, that same thing is happening with children ranging from a few years old to teenagers. Only these children are not boarding boats or sometimes not even traveling with their family. These children are jumping on moving trains, trekking across deserts, crossing streams all the while trying to evade those seeking to exploit them. These children are fleeing domestic abuse, violence, poverty, and food insecurity in hopes that they may have a better life and help out their families.

Our project began last fall when we, Caroline Capili, Kristopher Ruiz, and Andrew Patterson signed up for a brand-new class at Baylor University led by Dr. Victor Hinojosa and Dr. Lori Baker focusing on the issue of child migration in the Western Hemisphere with an emphasis on the Northern Triangle countries. We attended weekly lectures, read reports and books, and met with numerous experts in the field. We were asked to develop an innovative project to address the child migrant crisis. We spent many classes going through the process of design thinking to come up with ideas about what we wanted to accomplish and how we were going to do so. After months of going through this process, we agreed that we wanted to bring attention and awareness to this crisis and start a dialogue here in Waco. Once we had this purpose, we thought the best way to approach a problem with multiple facets was through art. We looked up different examples of art exhibits focusing on the issue of immigration, and that’s when we first came across Northern Triangle.

Northern Triangle is an exhibition created by Borderland Collective that opens a space for constructive dialogue and exchange around the current Central American refugee crisis along the U.S./Mexico border and the long and complicated history of U.S. intervention in which it is irrevocably entangled. The exhibit is comprised of pieces such as items collected along the border, pictures drawn by child migrants, news articles, and photographs. Northern Triangle is everything we wanted in an exhibit and more. We found Northern Triangle through one of the guest speakers we had, Mark Menjivar. Mark is a former Baylor student and friend of Dr. Hinojosa. He is one of the lead collaborators of Borderland Collective. Borderland Collective is a long-term art and education project based out of Texas State University designed to engage community members with complex issues in order to foster discussion on those issues. The lead collaborators of Borderland Collective are Jason Reed (Director), Ryan Sprott (Co-Founder), Mark Menjivar, Molly Sherman, Erina Duganne, Daniela Hernandez, and Cacey Wells. Mark Menjivar had been our point of contact with Borderland Collective.

Our panel discussion at the opening night event will consist of three portions. First, Caroline Capili, Kristopher Ruiz, and Andrew Patterson will introduce the project, the process they went through, their goals for this art exhibit, and how those goals brought them into contact with Borderland Collective. Second, Mark Menjivar, Jason Reed, and Erina Duganne from Borderland Collective will discuss the exhibit, Northern Triangle, and explain what they have learned in their time studying this issue’s history and the current state it is in today. Third, Dr. Victor Hinojosa, Dr. Lori Baker, and Dr. Andy Hogue will discuss their many years of work on this issue in the areas of political science and anthropology.

Here are some of our reflections on how this project has affected us:

“This project has given us the opportunity to start a dialogue regarding the issue of child migration and address the misconceptions surrounding it. Tackling this issue starts with education about what is really happening and not just what is portrayed in the media. My perception of this issue changed more and more as I spent time learning about it, and my hope is that this art exhibit does the same with the community. As a college student, I never once thought I was going to be able to participate in a project like this that could actually make a difference in something as important as children risking their lives by attempting to come to America.” – Kristopher Ruiz

“As a college student, I never thought that I would be able to engage with professional change-makers on a weekly basis. Through this project, I have been able to interact with many individuals with big dreams and big ideas. The “wicked problem” of migration from Latin America has been a hot topic in the news lately, and we wanted to create a space to foster conversation about the issue. I hope that this art exhibit will impact the way the Waco community views the migration crisis by showing them multiple perspectives, and allow them to experience the issue in a new light.” -Caroline Capili

“Coming from a state like Wisconsin, I never had much of an exposure to the the child migrant crisis before I signed up for this class. If you asked me last fall what I thought was going to come out of this class, I would never have imagined I would develop such an interest in this wicked problem and become passionate about helping these kids. I never would have imagined bringing an exhibit like Northern Triangle to Baylor. This class has been one of the highlights of my college career and I am immensely grateful for everyone who made this class possible and helped us make this project into a reality.” – Andrew Patterson

April 19 – 6 PM – Northern Triangle Opening Night Event at the Mayborn Museum – The opening night event will be free and open to the public. The Office of the Provost’s Social Innovation Collaboration Initiative (BAY-SIC) will host a conversation at 6 p.m. to discuss the event’s focus: The Central American refugee crisis. If individuals wish to visit the exhibit after April 19, the price is included with museum admission. The exhibit will be on display through September 19. There will also be light refreshments at the event.

Andrew Patterson is a junior Political Science and Economics Major, from Mukwonago, Wisconsin.  Caroline Capili is a Junior, Political Science Major, from Beaumont, Texas, and Kristopher Ruiz is a junior, Political Science Major, from Round Rock, Texas.

Towny: 1 EASY Way to Benefit Yourself, Your City, Your Neighbor TODAY!

By Hannah Franzen

Spending locally matters more than you might think. Local investment, as you Act Locally readers probably already know, helps to create jobs, support vital community services, and strengthen economies. So, high-five! When you spend your hard-earned dollars at Cheddar Box or La Fiesta or Katie’s Custard or other locally owned businesses — 50% of your purchase goes right back into the bettering of your city. That feels good, right?

Didn’t want another day (or another one of your dollars) to go by without you being aware: there’s a free, app that makes it easier than ever to shop local and save money at the same time.

Let me introduce you to Towny. Towny’s a mobile app (it lives in your phone) that helps you discover and support Waco. It lists our city’s local, independently owned businesses and showcases promotions certain businesses have to offer. You just have to download the app, which is free.

(Sidenote: I was shocked when saw what kinds of “deals” we talkin bout. 50% off where I already go for juice?! 10% off entire purchase at a shop I discovered on the app? Yes, please.)

But it’s not just food and boutiques. It’s auto shops, entertainment, and your local holistic health centers. You’re going to see how helpful it is – to Waco and your wallet.

As a native of Waco, I feel privileged to get an inside look at the entrepreneurial development that’s happening all around us. Mortar and hard hats abound! My co-workers and I that live in Waco (Beth Whittington and Jordan and Jessica Chappell), are thrilled at the opportunity we have to INCREASE connection and communication from local business to consumer and vice versa. 

Sooo, Big Picture: What Is Towny? 

Each local business here has a story and they want locals to find them. Over 90% of us begin any shopping/eating/purchasing relationship on our mobile phones…that can give big chain businesses a big advantage.  They can afford to reach us on our phones, through big advertising. But a local business often doesn’t have a web and graphics team or a huge marketing budget, so 90% of locally-owned businesses have nothing optimized for how consumers begin: on your phone.

It’s not that consumers don’t want to know – they just don’t. Most people love the concept of “support local,” but may not know what to do beyond a bumper sticker.

This is important: Towny attempts to tackle that by forming a coalition of locally-owned businesses in a city, who can more effectively afford a mobile and marketing presence by banding together and pooling some resources.

Towny’s a connector. We connect:

  • Local businesses to consumers
  • Consumers to businesses
  • Communities to their own stories

 We’re About the People

Our founder and CEO, Don Shafer, identified this problem by working with local communities and their local banks for the past thirty years. It gave him face-to-face encounters with thousands of business owners. Since starting Towny two years ago, we’ve personally spoken with over 3,700 business owners to understand their challenges, needs, and stories.

“Let’s connect consumers in a city with their local business community,” we said, and haven’t looked back.

Don’t Miss a Beat

We are super excited to be partnering with Act Locally Waco.  In the coming months we will be working together to help share the stories of some of Waco’s locally owned businesses.

Meanwhile, grab your phone and download the Towny Rewards app before you forget. Yep, search “Towny Rewards” in your app store. It’s worth it! Spread the word to your Waco peeps (forward this! share this! DM this!) so they, too, can understand the importance of shopping local and thank you later for it! Annnd if you’d like to stay connected to us click here. You won’t miss a thing. ‘Til next time!

Hannah Franzen is a business growth strategist at Towny. As a Waco native, she loves the opportunity of diving deeper into the local business makeup of Waco.

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.