Innovative treatment for children with autism available in Waco

By Julie Ivey

As a faculty member at Baylor, I have worked extensively helping children with autism, and I’m really excited about a current project that is innovative and free to children in the area. Our team is working one-on-one with children to improve balance, gait, behavior, and language. It’s a fun experience for the children because they do this while riding a mechanical horse.

The Baylor School of Education autism team is measuring the behavioral and language effects of riding on the MiraColt mechanical horse.

You might have heard about the therapeutic benefits of horseback riding for children with autism; these experiences are believed to stimulate neurological connections because of the motion of the horse that the child must respond to. But not every family has access to live horses. If the mechanical horse can be effective in a clinical setting staffed by trained professionals, it can offer an excellent intervention to help children.

Through a grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, our Baylor autism team is measuring the behavioral and language effects of riding on the MiraColt mechanical horse. Because of this funding, the experience is free to children, whose parents sign up to attend two sessions per week for 15 weeks. In fact, families who complete the study will receive $150. The project is taking place at the Baylor BRIC. Be assured that the members of our interdisciplinary team have extensive experience working with children with autism and will help the children feel comfortable in a new setting.

We are recruiting children ages 6-12 who have a diagnosis of autism and may experience motor delays. To participate, children should be able to follow simple verbal instructions and have an IQ above 80. We are accepting participants on a rolling basis this fall and spring. While the study is in its early stages, our preliminary observations are promising, and parents have said they see improvements in their children.

For a little bit more information, you can read this story from the School of Education: School of Education Autism Research Team Studies Mechanical Horse Intervention

If you think your child would be interested and would qualify, we will begin with a meet-and-greet session to show you what it is all about, meet your child, and let you explore the space.

For more information, please mail me at [email protected]! We are excited to work with children and the community on this exciting, innovative project!

Julie Ivey, Ph.D., is a clinical professor in the Baylor University School of Education.

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 Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Education prof Lakia Scott named ‘Champion of Change’

By Baylor School of Education

Baylor University has named Lakia Scott the school’s “Champion of Change” this year. Dr. Scott is an associate professor in Baylor’s School of Education.

Dr. Lakia Scott

Baylor launched “Champions of Change” awards to recognize and acknowledge the accomplishments of faculty, staff, and alumni (one of each annually) who have demonstrated efforts to “foster greater appreciation and advancement of diversity, inclusiveness, and equity for communities of color at Baylor and in Waco.” A diverse and representative volunteer advisory committee sought nominations and made the final selections for the inaugural honorees.

Scott’s efforts in equity enhancement have included promoting the recruitment and retention of first-generation college students and students of color through advising student organizations; establishing a reputation for being empathetic and supportive of students from traditionally marginalized backgrounds; and focusing her research on multicultural awareness, diversity practices, and urban education and literacy.

“I am humbled by this recognition, and I do not take this honor lightly,” Scott said. “This notion of being a champion of change truly challenges us to continue in our efforts to call into question and/or critique the structural and systemic barriers that limit human flourishing. While I am grateful that my efforts have been noticed, there is still so much to do, especially in thinking about equitable education as a right, not a privilege, for all students in our country. I am thankful to do my part in Waco — the strides made here can provide a national model for evoking true change in education.”

For three years, Scott served as the Chair of the Campus Diversity Committee and currently serves on the President’s Diversity Council. Scott also won Baylor’s Diversity Enhancement Award in 2018 and this year is the recipient of Baylor’s Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award (tenure-track) She is the founding director of Baylor’s Freedom Schools, a summer literacy enrichment program for elementary and middle school youth which focuses on culturally relevant teaching practices and the utilization of multicultural literature in order to bridge summer learning loss.

Teaching in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction and serving as the department’s graduate program director, Scott is a recognized scholar in the field of Urban Education. Her credits include a host of research publications, co-authored and co-edited books, book chapters, and educational evaluation reports.

When the awards were presented at the end of the spring semester, Baylor President Dr. Linda Livingstone said, “The impact of this year’s Champions of Change echoes far beyond the halls of Baylor University, reverberating well into the greater Waco community. Each of these amazing leaders embodies the character and commitment to equity we seek in reflecting Baylor’s Christian mission.”

The impact of Scott’s work has indeed reverberated beyond campus, as she also received recognition from the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, receiving their “Waco Under 40” Award honoring “dynamic young leaders under the age of 40” who are making an impact in the greater Waco community.

Scott said, “I believe strongly that through service, love, and intentionality, we can transform our community spaces in ways that translate to human flourishing. I am honored to be among my esteemed peers and colleagues who also consider themselves servants of the greater Waco community.”

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 Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

First-year teachers — How did 2020 Baylor Education grads do?

By Baylor School of Education

Baylor University’s teacher-education graduates of 2020 experienced a career launch like no other class. Their classroom internships were cut short by the global COVID pandemic, and then they entered their first year of independent teaching still in the midst of a pandemic that lasted the entire school year. 

It’s a good thing the Baylor School of Education teacher-education program is designed to prepare graduates thoroughly through rigorous coursework, as well as intense faculty-guided field experiences. Baylor’s preparation is so rigorous, in fact, that 2020 teacher education majors had completed their state-required classroom experiences and already taken their certification exams when the pandemic hit.

But were they really ready? Could anything have prepared them for a first year of teaching in a pandemic? Read the reflections of four of our 2020 graduates after their first year in the classroom and find out. Spoiler alert — our graduates are amazing! Congratulations (and thank you) to them and to all teachers who are leading during these challenging times.


Emily Holland, BSEd ’20, All-Level Special Education

Emily Holland

Robinson Elementary School, Robinson ISD

Functional Academics (first-third graders)

“One thing that I was not prepared for was teaching students with disabilities through a computer screen. It is already challenging enough to differentiate instruction for your kiddos in person let alone online with that barrier. . . . Most of my students ended up in my classroom, but I did have two that chose to stay home for the entire school year. I could handle the challenging behaviors, disengaged learners, or the unpredictability of each day. But that added layer of asynchronous/synchronous instruction is the main reason that I finished each day completely drained. However, this year gave educators the opportunity to learn and try so many amazing online resources that I hope we will all continue to use in the future.”

READ EMILY‘S COMPLETE REFLECTION


Augie Strauch, BSEd ’20, Secondary Social Studies

Augie Strauch

Vandergriff High School, Leander ISD

Eleventh Grade U.S. History

“I knew engagement and relationships were going to be the biggest hurdles this year, and I really felt like my time at Baylor helped prepare me to make the adjustments necessary to have a great year. . . . To keep students’ attention, I knew they needed to be a part of the lesson, not just an observer. . . . I ended up finding a collection of tools that allowed me to embed questions into my presentations that would prompt questions to the entire class while I was teaching.”

READ AUGIE’S COMPLETE REFLECTION


Sahira Kodra, BSEd ’20, Elementary Education

Sahira Kodra

Akin Elementary, Leander ISD

Fourth Grade 

“All my Baylor classes and time in the classroom prepared me for teaching, but I think nothing prepared me for teaching virtually all of my first year. Baylor also instilled a love of learning in me that I was able to pass down to my students. . . . My favorite memory was when my students and I participated in an escape room I created — thanks to Dr. Neil Shanks. We had done an in-person escape room in his methods class, I reached out and asked him a few questions. I then created a math escape room that allowed my students to go through it in teams while being virtual.”

READ SAHIRA’S COMPLETE REFLECTION


Cami Cox, BSEd ’20, Elementary Education

Cami Cox

Cypress Elementary, Leander ISD

First Grade

“Going from virtual to in-person to being quarantined to the constant revolving door of students, change was the name of the game! I grew so much this year, and I will carry the lessons I learned throughout my teaching career. . . . All the different experiences I had through Baylor definitely prepared me. . . . One of my students told me, ‘Ms. Cox, I know you’re a new teacher, but I like that you change stuff up. It makes it fun!’ I’m really glad she thought so because this year was full of change!”

READ CAMI’S COMPLETE REFLECTION


For more than 100 years, Baylor educators have carried the mission and practices of the School of Education to classrooms and beyond as teachers, leaders in K12 and higher education, psychologists, academics/scholars, and more. With more than 50 full-time faculty members, the school’s growing research portfolio complements its long-standing commitment to excellence in teaching and student mentoring. Visit www.baylor.edu/SOE to learn more.

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 Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Overshown sees Waco through the eyes of Baylor athletics

Editor: In honor of Women’s History Month, we are featuring interviews with local women leaders. These pieces were written by Baylor University students from the Department of Journalism, Public Relations, and New Media.

By Audrey Patterson

The green and gold glow from the top of Pat Neff Hall. The twinkling lights shine from the Magnolia Silos. The red lights illuminate the historic ALICO building. A spotlight is shining on Waco, and its new and old attractions draw tourists and students to Central Texas.

Jovan Overshown

“[Waco] is so eclectic,” Jovan Overshown, Baylor University’s senior associate athletics director for external affairs, said. “People think of Waco as having this small, home-town feel, but it’s so much more than that. You can have that kind of close-knit experience, but you also have the energy, all the development, the building, the art scene and the boom of a big city happening here.”

Overshown joined Baylor Athletics in May 2017. She manages all aspects of the department’s external operations dealing with marketing communications, resource development, BaylorVision, creative services, and fan engagement.

“There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle,” Overshown said. “But they are all elements that have something to do with telling the story of Baylor athletics and our phenomenal 500-plus student-athletes. … We get to promote the amazing things we are doing here, this incredible university, whether that be in written form or by visually showcasing something really impactful.”

Overshown’s work with Baylor helps her interact with the Waco community. With her job, she engages the community and fan base through different projects.

“Baylor Athletics has participated in Bears for Books to help with literacy issues within the community,” Overshown said. “Our football team specifically has done a great job of engaging schools, whether it’s reading to kids or just engaging with them.”

Waco has the beauty of being in Central Texas. Overshown expressed how great it is to be surrounded by family and friends, never too far out of reach.

When asked about her hobbies, Overshown joked that she couldn’t count work as her hobby. Instead, she spoke of her love for her family.

“I’m the type to invite everyone to the backyard,” Overshown said. “Let’s cookout, let’s grill and hang out. I’m very much one of those people that is invigorated by community, but I also love to zone out and go for a run.”

Overshown considered the question of where she’d go if she had a bad day and wanted to be cheered up. Her response: to head into nature.

“Cameron Park was one of the first places my husband and I visited when we first moved here,” Overshown said. “We would run the trails all the time. … It’s great scenery, and it makes you feel like you’re not in Texas.”

Overshown advises to “not prejudge Waco. Get involved in your church or in your school community groups or whatever it is because there’s so much you can do, and there’s still so much growth that can happen here. Be intentional, get on that email list, get on those discussion board forums, and just really tap in.”

Audrey Patterson is a sophomore journalism and environmental studies double major at Baylor University. She is from California. 

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 Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Kelsey Baas encourages Wacoans to get involved in all that Waco offers

Editor: In honor of Women’s History Month, we are featuring interviews with local women leaders. These pieces were written by Baylor University students from the Department of Journalism, Public Relations, and New Media.

By Marquis Cooley

“I really love most the heart of Waco, … the supportive nature of small businesses that I’ve seen and really just how family friendly it is,” said physical therapist Kelsey Baas. 

Kelsey Baas

Baas is a mother and small business owner. Her love for Waco started after a college visit to Baylor University.

“Both my parents went to Baylor. And growing up, I said I’d never go to Baylor because I wanted to be different than them. And they were very smart and knew what they were doing. They scheduled my visit for Baylor during Homecoming weekend, and I fell in love with it,” Baas said.

After graduating from Baylor and receiving her doctorate in physical therapy from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Baas worked as a clinical specialist at Texas Children’s Hospital. After a few years, Baas and her husband decided to return to Waco, where she opened Compleo, a physical therapy and wellness clinic. 

Baas said an aspect that separates Waco from other cities, especially the big cities, is how it’s run by a lot of small businesses. She said to really appreciate Waco, people should get outside and get moving to see what the city has to offer. 

 “I would argue that there’s a lot more to do than you think, even if it’s not what you’re used to in the big cities,” Baas said. “Maybe we don’t have as many restaurants or as many shops, but I would argue that a lot of our businesses here are even more special because they are almost all family owned and supported.” 

There are people who believe there is nothing to do in Waco, but Baas said she thinks it’s because they aren’t aware of what’s available. She gave some ideas as to how people can get involved and enjoy Waco.

“A lot of people just don’t even realize what’s here. I think so many people haven’t been to all the different parks, … enjoying the outdoors and enjoying the parks and then really supporting the businesses downtown,” Baas said. 

The area Baas said she believes needs more support and attention from people in Waco is downtown.

“I think a lot of people we know don’t go downtown because they just think of it as a place for tourists. And really there are so many from Cultivate 7Twelve to Waco Cha doing a lot of really cool stuff, to boutiques,” Baas said. “There’s just a lot of different things going on in downtown that I wish more of our local Wacoans would get out and support and enjoy.”

When comparing Waco to the bigger cities in Texas like Dallas and Houston, it may not have as much to offer. However, quantity isn’t always better than quality according to Baas.

“Sometimes having a little bit less to do means you form better relationships because you can actually spend quality time with people and you’re not always distracted bouncing to all these different things,” Baas said. 

Marquis Cooley is a journalism major at Baylor University. His love of sports and writing lead him to pursue a career in sports reporting. He hopes to one day report for ESPN. He is from Virginia. 

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 Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Blevins: ‘Waco is in the process of becoming something greater’

Editor: In honor of Women’s History Month, we are featuring interviews with local women leaders. These pieces were written by Baylor University students from the Department of Journalism, Public Relations, and New Media.

By Danielle Skinner 

Brooke E. Blevins, Ph.D., associate professor of social studies education and chair of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the Baylor University School of Education, said Waco is continuing to grow and become a home to many.

Brooke Blevins

After Blevins received her Ph.D., she began looking for a job that would allow her to have a stable career and start a family. She said Waco was the perfect place to do both, as the community is small, but continuing to grow. 

“A job opened up here at Baylor, I interviewed and I knew from that first interview that this was where I wanted to be,” Blevins said. “I came here in 2011 and have loved being here at Baylor, but especially Waco because it was better than I ever anticipated.” 

Waco is an interesting place at first glance, Blevins said. Waco is a nice size city with access to multiple amenities and services. Most importantly, Waco is a great place to raise and start a family, as there are many fun things to do. The city is also very diverse and allows for people to grow in the community.

“Waco has a lot of really great people in it,” Blevins said. “I love how Waco is being revitalized in a lot of different ways, not just economically but in terms of stories and the narratives being told in this community.”

Blevins said it is important to look into the history of places you are visiting, especially with a place like Waco. All towns experience good and bad times, and she believes Waco continues to reflect and grow as a community. 

Waco has a very interesting and challenging history, Blevins said. No matter where you are, you should know and understand your past. There is plenty of encouragement to learn more about Waco, its history, and how it shapes the Waco community today.

“Waco is in the process of becoming something greater,” Blevins said. Waco is not forgetting its past, but it is also “looking forward to seeing what we can do in the future, which seems very exciting.”

Blevins said she is happy to see progress Waco has made especially in the last 10 years. She said that she is noticing that the city is more of a destination spot where the community can come together as one.

Many initiatives are in process to improve Waco, such as the redevelopment of downtown, Chip and Joanna Gaines helping reshape the look of Waco, and how Baylor University has moved to care for its community and the people residing in the city, are ways that Waco is improving, Blevins said.

There will always be problems no matter where you are, but there are organizations like Prosper Waco that are helping out with really big problems and how Waco can tackle them, which Blevins believes is a great way to show what Waco is becoming. 

 “This is a time for change for the city,” Blevins said. “Waco is in a place of becoming who it is meant to be.” 

Danielle Skinner is a freshman at Baylor University majoring in journalism and pre-law. She is from Canada.

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 Ferrell Foster at [email protected]

Baylor’s Lakia Scott working to improve urban literacy

In honor of Black History Month, we are featuring interviews with local Black community leaders. These pieces were written by Baylor University students from the Department of Journalism, Public Relations, and New Media. The students asked questions about what the leaders love about Waco, and we are excited to share their responses with you this month.

By Lauren Combs 

Lakia Scott, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction with Baylor University’s School of Education, pursues research alongside teaching undergraduate and graduate students. She decided to dedicate her research to improve urban literacy. 

Lakia Scott

“My research for the last three years has been on the Freedom Schools program,” Scott said, “and that is a summer literacy initiative that is sponsored by the Children’s Defense Fund that helps to lessen summer reading loss.” 

Scott said students who don’t have access to resources like summer enrichment programs or tutoring opportunities typically fall six to nine months behind before returning to school in the fall. 

“They’re actually returning to school as if they are in the mid-year of their previous academic school year,” Scott said. The program she created and continues in partnership with the CDF model seeks to “reduce that learning loss, that summer reading gap, so that students can go back to school in a better frame of mind academically.” 

Scott said the Freedom Schools program uses culturally relevant texts at all levels that are developmentally appropriate to increase students’ exposure to reading. The students have three different opportunities to engage with texts throughout the day. 

“They’ve become more fluent readers. They also build comprehension skills because they’re reading things they really, really care about, and that makes all the difference,” Scott said. “Whereas a sixth grader may come to me on a fluent reading level of fourth grade or right under fifth grade, they may leave Freedom Schools in a 30-day time span over the course of two months at a seventh grade level.” 

Scott said the students who participate in this program are also positively impacted because they are appreciative of reading, academically motivated, and likely to become leaders in their classrooms and communities. 

“I know reading is only one of those core subjects taught,” Scott said, “but reading is seen in every other subject. And so if we don’t equip our students with those foundational literacy skills, it has long-term impacts.”

Waco ISD has a reading proficiency of 30%, which means 30% of the students in the district are reading at or above grade level. “My goal, if I were able to cast this larger vision for the City of Waco, would be to see that reading percentage increase exponentially to the 90 percentage range,” Scott said. 

Scott said the community has already been doing a lot to help achieve this goal, but she would like to continue to see community members making their presence known in the schools with opportunities like mentoring programs. She also encourages sororities, fraternities and other service-based organizations to continue being advocates in school settings. However, Scott also said there are other, less direct way to increase the literacy levels. 

“Something that I think is really overlooked is attending school board meetings. The presence of community members at school board meetings is powerful because so much happens there— the ways budgets are allocated, the ways resources are allocated— all of those things are talked about and discussed and voted upon at the school board level,” Scott said. 

Scott even encouraged community members to run for school board positions and community leadership opportunities. 

“If we are really serious about making change in ways that are going to positively affect the students that are in the community,” Scott said, “we need to be more vocal about it.”

Lauren Combs is a Baylor University sophomore from Virginia majoring in journalism who hopes to pursue magazine writing or public relations for nonprofits or ministries.

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 Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Baylor professor enjoying Waco & giving to future generations

In honor of Black History Month, we are featuring interviews with local Black community leaders. These pieces were written by Baylor University students from the Department of Journalism, Public Relations, and New Media. The students asked questions about what the leaders love about Waco, and we are excited to share their responses with you this month.

By George Schroeder

Mia Moody-Ramirez came to Waco for a job 31 years ago and ended up staying to pursue more education and a new career path. “Waco really grows on you,” she said. “It’s the right size, not too small, not too big, and I like that Waco is centrally located.”

Mia Moody-Ramirez

She moved to Waco in 1990 to work with the Waco Tribune-Herald. Then, while pursuing her master’s degree in journalism at Baylor University, Moody-Ramirez was asked to teach a class.

“I found out it was something that I was passionate about, and I decided to pursue teaching,” Moody-Ramirez said. “After graduating with my master’s degree, I decided to immediately go on and get a Ph.D. in journalism and after I got my Ph.D. I just stayed on at Baylor.”

Today, she is chair of Baylor’s journalism, public relations, and new media department.

Though she thought she would move on to a larger city after receiving her degrees from Baylor, she wanted to continue working at Baylor and decided Waco would be a good place to raise her family. 

Moody-Ramirez appreciates the simpler, more affordable aspects of Waco. She loves to walk with her family around downtown, along the Brazos River, and around the various parks and lakes. 

“You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have fun,” Moody-Ramirez said. “You can just walk around and take pictures. It’s beautiful. It’s very scenic, so I like that part about Waco.”

While her sons, much of her time revolved around them and involved taking them to their various activities, Moody-Ramirez said. As they have gotten older, she has been able to focus on more of what interests her around Waco. 

“I like to go to wine tastings, book readings, poetry readings, just pretty chill events like that, that are melo where I can relax,” Moody-Ramirez said. “I’ve pretty much been shut in since March, but traditionally those are some of the things I would do.”

Apart from leisurely activities, Moody-Ramirez is a member of three organizations in Waco — Jack and Jill of America, The Links, and Delta Sigma Theta. Many of their events have gone virtual due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

These organizations revolve around service and civic engagement, she said, and most of her activity is now centered around them. When it comes to local events, she likes a two-pronged approach.

“They are fun on one hand but are also sponsored so you can raise money to give back to an organization,” Moody-Ramirez said. “I like to give back to organizations that are focused on you, organizations that will have an impact on our future generations, on children.”

Specifically focusing on children with the Waco Chapter of Jack and Jill, Moody-Ramirez attends “Jazzy for a Healthy Heart” every January. At this event, having a strong heart is promoted through healthy food, jazz music, and various speakers.

“It’s one of the things I look forward to every year,” Moody-Ramirez said. “I like that organization because I participate in it with my children. The money we raise from that event will go to an organization that’s for children.”

With her emphasis on giving back to the community and specifically younger generations, Moody-Ramirez has become a valued member of the Waco community, and is a caring teacher and leading voice at Baylor.

George Schroeder is a journalism student at Baylor University.

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 Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Peacock building bridges between Baylor & community

In honor of Black History Month, we are featuring interviews with local Black community leaders. These pieces were written by Baylor University students from the Department of Journalism, Public Relations, and New Media. The students asked questions about what the leaders love about Waco, and we are excited to share their responses with you this month.

By Belle Ebner 

Waco is a small city that can make a big impact, according to Cuevas Peacock, who works in Baylor University’s Office of External Affairs. It’s a place that is persistently growing and continues to make strides toward improvement. 

Cuevas Peacock

For much too long, people would say Waco is just a pit stop on a road trip to somewhere more interesting, Peacock said. But through his time working with Grassroots Community Development and at Baylor, Peacock has seen the city transform. 

“By being involved in these various things, I am able to see first-hand just what can happen in Waco, and it’s exciting,” he said. 

Peacock said he was a community organizer at Grassroots and was responsible for identifying opportunities for growth in the community. He was pleasantly surprised at the community’s willingness to participate in the city’s success and their receptiveness to new ideas. 

In Waco, there is a strong sense of connectivity one can’t get in bigger cities, according to Peacock. People in Waco wish to find long-term solutions to issues in their community as well as working together to advance equity. Peacock said he is good friends with prominent citizens of Waco, including the mayor.

“Wow,” Peacock said. “Could you have these types of relationships in bigger cities? I don’t think you can.”

Waco is a community built on educational opportunities, Peacock said. If someone wants to gain a skill or knowledge, they have the opportunity at Baylor University, McLennan Community College, Texas State Technical College, and various other educational organizations. 

Baylor University is a large part of the city’s identity, and Peacock said his job includes “bursting the bubble” that surrounds the university and integrating it more into the Waco community. By bridging the two, Peacock believes Waco can become even more culturally vibrant and progressive. 

Organizations such as the Grassroots ensure that solutions are resident-driven and that the people have power, according to Peacock. By making sure the public has the resources to create change themselves, Waco has become a uniquely proactive community.

“If they have an idea, if they have a vision, if they have a thought, if they have a belief, I would encourage them to act on it,” he said. 

There’s a certain Waco attitude that encourages being receptive to new ideas and supporting the idea that change is beneficial, Peacock said. Even if one is tentative to call for change or make a suggestion, there are people in the community who will help them make the necessary steps. 

The connectivity and willingness to support one’s neighbors is what cultivates such a strong community in Waco. The more involved one becomes in providing solutions and improving the city, the more one becomes hopeful for Waco’s future, according to Peacock. 

“I know what’s to come. I see the vision,” he said. Peacock has a vision for an ever-evolving city with a passion for change.

Belle Ebner is from Colorado and is majoring in journalism and public relations at Baylor University. 

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 Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Leaving the Baylor Bubble

by Caleb Reynolds, Baylor Student

“Did the faculty tell y’all not to talk to us?” are words that I will never forget.

When a homeless man named Cody asked if my “Christian” college told its students to avoid the poor I nearly broke down. Meeting this man opened my blind eyes. I saw a reality that I had not seen before, a reality where even though a person’s potential may be astoundingly high, he can be shut down because of his economic or social standing. I never would have seen this reality if it were not for a simple assignment in my English class. Our professor asked us to take a bus ride on Waco Transit to see what the surrounding community is like. Just a few streets over from my university I met a man who had a profound effect on me; he gave me a new perspective.

waco transitCody is the type of man that would have been all too easy to pass by as I went to get snacks at the gas station across the street. As soon as I sat down to wait for the bus, he began to speak. He didn’t ask for money; he didn’t ask for food; he asked how I was. A common courtesy led to a deep conversation about both of us. Cody revealed his life to me. He was imprisoned until five years ago and started his path towards a better place three years ago. His reason to really change his life was the birth of his son. Because of his own experience growing up without a father, Cody was determined that history not repeat itself with his son. He explained his whole reason to try and be a better man stemmed from his relationship with Christ. Through Christ he was trying to fix his life, something he admitted was a struggle. He was dependent on his faith in God, and trying his best not to let worry in.

He said that he did not know much about Baylor other than that the students do not approach him. He said that he could tell from the second I began to talk with him that I had Christ in me. That is where his words hit me in the gut. This struggling child of God planted a question in me: Who was I and what was I doing?

I now find myself contacting Mission Waco, eager to see how I can help Cody and others like him. I find myself looking for time to help out those who are needier than I am. I see myself questioning things that I thought were set in stone. I used to look at my surroundings and say that Baylor was a bubble, but the real problem was that I was not looking closely enough. With a closer look, I realize I can see homeless people from my window. It is easier to walk to worship with the homeless people gathered on Sundays at the Church under the Bridge than to any of my classes.

After talking with Cody, I realize, whether I want to admit it or not, my bubble includes people in need. My bubble does include Baylor, a school that I love because of the Christian values we have in common. Meeting Cody, however, made me question whether I really stood for these values, or whether I just “talked the talk” because it helped me fit in. He made me realize that these values have implications on my life. I cannot just be the stereotypical college student. I can’t just ignore a suffering person; that person is a suffering child of God. Cody made me see that claiming to be a Christian and claiming to be going into full time vocational Ministry doesn’t make me what I say. The only way those things can be true is if I live them. I can claim that I am a fan of something, but if I never talked about it or identified myself with it, who would know what I cheered for?

On the surface it may look like my life is not too different than before I met Cody. I’m still at Baylor. I still live in Penland, and I still plan to major in communications. But my life has changed. Since meeting Cody I care for the people that are part of the city. I now care that this man is jobless and homeless, instead of just letting him pass through my life. I am a typical Baylor student that, because of a random project, talked to a random man, and now I am changed. This assignment had an effect on me, and for the better. It gave me a new outlook on my life. An outlook that now involves others.

Caleb 1This week’s Act Locally Waco blog post is by Caleb Reynolds. Caleb is a freshman communications major from Carrollton, Texas. He met Cody as part of an assignment in his “Writing in the Age of Digital Media” class ,fall 2013, at Baylor University. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco blog, please contact Ashley Thornton at [email protected].