I Want To Be Involved In Prosper Waco, But How?

By Christina Helmick

Recently, we’ve been getting asked how people can become involved in the Prosper Waco initiative if they can’t attend meetings or meetings aren’t their thing. That’s a good question. We tend to focus on the many meetings that occur within the Prosper Waco initiative, sometimes we don’t communicate clearly enough that there are a plethora of ways to become involved—from subscribing to our newsletter to volunteering your time to help prepare community members to become “job ready.”

Below are five specific opportunities for you to choose to become engaged in the Prosper Waco initiative. These of course are not all of the ways, but just a few to get started.

engageEngage the community: Community engagement is a two-way conversation! If you are a part of an organization in town, connect with the Prosper Waco Community Engagement Council to learn how the Prosper Waco initiative aligns with your organization. If you are a community member and you want to join the conversation about the Prosper Waco initiative, host or attend a house meeting with the Community Engagement Council. A house meeting doesn’t have to be at your house—it can be anywhere!

mentorBecome a mentor: The Mentor Coalition is comprised of various organizations in our community who provide mentoring to Waco youth. There are many different ways to mentor in our community.  Check out the list!  You may find the perfect match for your availability, your interests and the age person you would like to mentor.  LEAD, Communities in Schools and Big Brothers Big Sisters are just a few of the organizations in the coalition.

job readySupport job readiness programs: In our community, we have many organizations working hard to help Waco residents acquire the skills necessary to get and keep a job. Examples of these organizations include HOT Goodwill Industries, Christian Men’s Job Corps, Christian Women’s Job Corp and the newly created Esther’s Closet.

newsletterSubscribe to our newsletter: Subscribing to the Prosper Waco newsletter will ensure you are kept abreast of the collaborative efforts that are ongoing in our community. The newsletters arrive on the first Monday of every month. Also, follow us on our Facebook and Twitter pages to receive daily updates on the initiative!

meetingOf course if you DO want to Attend a meeting  you are certainly invited! At either the Steering Committee level or the Working Group level, you can join the ongoing collaborative conversations about strategies and projects that will help address the goals of the initiative. Check the “Events” tab on our website for meeting times, dates and locations.

As I mentioned before, these are just a few ways to get involved in the Prosper Waco initiative. If you have any interest in these opportunities, or want to learn more about them, send me an email and I’d be happy to connect you.

Getting involved with one or more of the aforementioned ways will directly contribute to moving the initiative forward. Our community is working hard to collectively improve the education, health and financial security of each person in our community. There isn’t a silver bullet to alleviating poverty in our community, but with your help, positive change not only can, but will, happen in our community.

Christina HelmickChristina Helmick is the director of communication at Prosper Waco. She is a recent graduate of Baylor University with a BA in Journalism, Public Relations & New Media. Originally she is from Washington, D.C., but has stayed in Waco post-graduation.  She is an active mentor at J.H. Hines Elementary School, enjoys spending time with her family and watching Baylor football. Sic ’em Bears!

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 ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

Financial Freedom: Dismantling Devastating Debt

(Note: This post is part of an on-going series on financial literacy. Two of the goals of Prosper Waco have to do with accumulating wealth: (1) Reduce the percentage of Waco-area households living without three months’ worth of savings if they were not able to work. (2) More than 50 percent of Waco households will have a net worth above $15,000. Our hope is that this series will help move our community towards accomplishing these goals both by sharing information about some of the challenges, complexities and practicalities of managing finances.  For other posts in this series, click here: Financial Freedom. — ABT)

By Phil Oliver

Payday and Title Loans

As I shared in my last blog, I have spent many hours talking to individuals and households about honestly addressing their financial goals based on their money flow IN and the flow OUT.  In my Financial Coaching, I am finding more and more cases where the short-term allure and convenience of quick (expensive) loans ended up becoming a major source of debt and despair.   The complete cycle is more devastating as the flow slows. Medical bills or medicine, sickness or even car repairs, all become major setbacks in any household that basically operates from paycheck to paycheck. This is where many of the financially vulnerable turn to the predatory loan network.

Payday Loans and Title Loans are short-term (usually two week) contracts that require an upfront fee that must be paid back IN FULL in two weeks.   The lenders are very willing to arrange for the “convenience” of a direct withdrawal from the consumer’s checking or debit account on payday (That’s why they are called “Payday Loans.”)  More often than not, this arrangement results in additional fees and frustrations as the money needed to pay IN FULL is not available two weeks later.  To make matters worse, consumers are sometimes also hit with insufficient funds or overdraft fees from their banks on top of the fees already paid for the loan.    The larger the loan, the less likely the customer will be able to pay it off in the short term.  When that happens, the payday lender often encourages the borrower to start another short term loan with additional fees!   Most who borrow, WON’T have the money to pay off the loan in two weeks when it is due, and the cycle develops into devastating debt where eventually payments never chip into the principle at all, and interest mounts exponentially. In the case of an Auto Title loan, the period could be a month, but then thousands of dollars will be due in 30 days.   In my coaching meetings, I have found this happening across the city in alarming frequency.

Since my last blog, the City of Waco has passed a Payday Lending ordinance which will go into effect on Sept. 1.   This is AWESOME news for consumers in crisis!    Now the lending institutions will be held to a reasonable standard of high interest and number of renewals of the loan.  They will also be tasked with making sure the loan is not a crippling percentage of the customer’s take home pay. There will be grievance procedures in place for residents to file when lending institutions don’t follow the ordinance.

For more information on this important topic, I HIGHLY recommend contacting The Waco Citizens for Responsible Lending.  And keep an eye out for an upcoming “Predatory Lending Training and Update. ”  This session will include roundtable discussions concerning predatory lending updates at the federal, state, and local level as well as steps to get involved in your community. Special guest speakers will include Ann Baddour, Director of the Fair Financial Services Project at Texas Appleseed as well as staff from the City of Waco.   For more information about Waco Citizens for Responsible Lending, or to get on the list to receive information about the “update” when it is scheduled, please contact Meilana Charles at 254-757-5180 email macharles@ag.tamu.edu or Tiffany Fry at 254-753-7337 email tfry@hotgoodwill.org

Student/College Debt

My biggest shift in the last few years with all those I talk with is to emphasize a common investment phrase…. “Return On Investment (ROI).”   In regard to a college education, I highly recommend most high school students attend MCC or TSTC to start their studies for ANY degree or certification.   These institutions provide a seamless path to job security through an associate’s degree or 4- year college by transfer or at MCC under the University Center opportunity.  This combined with dual-credit classes in high school can allow residents to fully enter the job market or an undergraduate degree much more rapidly and with minimal debt.

It is not unusual now for graduates to build up a $40-60,000 student debt while earning an undergraduate degree.  This often means up to 20-30% of their take-home pay is committed for long-term debt repayment.   This is a huge issue especially when combined with housing costs which can require an additional 40-50% of take home pay.   If you add that up, it means that there is only 20-40% left for ALL other living expenses!!

This is where the concept of Return on Investment (ROI) becomes so important.  It is financially smart to think carefully about the ROI when planning for college and career.  Of course it’s important to consider passion, talents and general interest – adding some consideration of average starting salaries and job availabilities rounds out a healthy equation for financial freedom.  In most cases, there are many choices for career paths that are possible that use similar skill sets and training.   Most college advisors and high school counselors can offer information for future job salaries, demand data, and trends.

Another consideration to reduce college debt, is the ability to transfer as many credits as possible from the community college.  One of the best opportunities here in our area is the MCC University Center program.  It allows residents to dually enroll in MCC and a partnering 4-year University while staying in Waco and paying much reduced hourly tuition.   It also guarantees the acceptance of credits earned at MCC and puts NO LIMIT on the cumulative number of transfer hours!!    Considering that most 4-yr Universities will only allow up to 60 hours to transfer toward a degree, having no limit for transfer hours with partnering Universities could allow any student to actually transfer in as a senior!!  This is a HUGE consideration when it comes to debt!

To find out more of about this unique program go to http://uc.mclennan.edu.

We are blessed to have some great resources in our Waco community for growing financially healthy.   Our area is also fairly unique in the amount of networking and collaboration being practiced, especially through the new and expanding Prosper Waco initiative.  I have been actively involved in this amazing collective and see the growing influence and investment they are creating for our community. Please check out their website and resources at prosperwaco.org, as well as the recommended FREE, foundational curriculum adopted by Prosper Waco for financial training from the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank called “Building Wealth”.  That material is available for a FREE download at https://www.dallasfed.org/assets/documents/cd/wealth/wealth.pdf

In my next blog, we’ll look at the 3 main financial ways that deficits in a monthly flow can be addressed and brought into balance. If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me directly:  poliver254@hot.rr.com

Phil OliverPhil Oliver is a retired educator.   He is an independent Financial Coach, active mentor, and community activist.   He has spent the last 8 years empowering individuals and families to take charge of their finances through his FLOW system.  He is active in many community efforts to grow financial literacy and responsibility including Prosper Waco and Citizens for Responsible Lending.  He consults with many local organizations to teach and inspire their efforts to empower clients in personal finances.  You can contact him at:  poliver254@hot.rr.com



My Ode to Waco ISD

By Deshauna Hollie

Waco is home and the experience of living here is like no other. I am currently a student studying education, Curriculum and Instruction. I’ve been a student before, lots of times in fact. I love learning, I love the process of learning, and I also love sharing what I have learned. Yet it took a long time before I realized that I should probably consider teaching. Although the name “Curriculum and Instruction” does little to suggest the artistic and philosophical nature of that field of education, it is indeed a creative and innovative field with a focus on 21st century learning and education. Curriculum and Instruction deals with the questions of: How we learn and Why we learn? It uses the answers those question to help determine the best ways to educate students for success, in a constantly evolving world.

One of the most fascinating insights that I have come across is that the biggest factors that indicate a student will achieve and be successful have nothing to do with how well a student does on standardized testing, their socio-economic class, English language ability, learning difference or even their ethnicity. I think that we all are aware that these things are in no way indicative of a child’s intelligence. Along with access to high quality curriculum, and parent and community support — having educators and an education system that believes in them is one of the biggest indicators that students will succeed and achieve.

That’s what I experienced during most of my time as a student in Waco ISD many years ago. It was so influential that it inspired me to write an ode to my favorite school district.  Here goes:

My ode to Waco ISD, the only school district I have ever known
To second grade teachers who read to us ever day after lunch
To high school English teachers who made sure we could write research papers
without using “to be” verbs, but who also introduced us to mock weddings, Charles Dickens…

My ode to biology model cells,
My ode to South Waco Elementary and the Apple Core Brigade…

My ode to the great and mighty G.W. Carver Academy where
We knew not what a text book was, but Odysseys kept us engaged in
Learning like no other…

My ode to learning that taught us
Fun words like “metamorphosis” in the forms of optical illusions and dystopia lit…

My ode to block schedules that allowed
Countless students the prestige of early graduation
So that they may forever be admired for their
Advanced Intelligence

My ode to the innovation of a district
That constantly embraces change
21st century learning always on the forefront of it’s mind…

My ode to Waco ISD
Where teachers, parents, community members and administrators alike
Are always succeeding…

Deshaunah Hollie - 4.3.16DeShauna Hollie is currently working on Master’s of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction at Greenville College. She is an aspiring teacher and hops farmer. She grew up in Waco and is happy to have returned after living in the Midwest and on the East Coast for awhile.

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 ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.