Cultivating A Child’s Gratitude

By Kimberly Trippodo

Thanksgiving 2017 is in the books… even though the “official” day is past, this is still the season of giving and thankfulness.

As a social worker, I consider Thanksgiving a mental wellness holiday, in which mindfulness, gratitude, and positive cognition are prioritized. I work in Special Education; and I am a parent to thoughtful, explorative, kind young man with Autism. Two years ago, around Thanksgiving, I set out on a quest to do a better job of teaching the concept of gratitude to the children with whom I work. My own child was overstimulated by gift giving, which made gratitude during the exchange of gifts even trickier to teach. In turning to the research, obviously and without question, teaching children gratitude is something which requires the adults to demonstrate consistency, lifestyle change, and even a heart shift.

Gratitude Must Be Modeled

A clear theme in the literature emerged and moved me. The key facet to teaching gratitude turned up time and time again as modeling gratitude (Hammer, 2012 & Kupferschmid, 2015). It’s simple but convicting. Maybe my gratitude is not where it should be, which sets a tone for the children around me. I made an effort to count my blessings…yes, out loud. My husband and I thanked each other for the smallest things, to the point of possible ridiculousness. Something happened to my heart: a joy, a lightness, and humor (which I sometimes forget to have) emerged.

Gratitude is an active skill. To be able to look at challenges and say, “Yet I find a reason to have joy and to be thankful,” takes practice, as well as the ability to tolerate distress and develop solutions to overcome. Think about any maneuver learned in an athletic setting. The easiest way to learn a skill is to watch it done by someone more skilled than you and practice it until it becomes a habit.

Gratitude can be even more easily taught when rituals are made of the modeling. Rituals allow extra practice and folding into routine for our children with intellectual or developmental delays. Community service, volunteering, and charitable giving are great rituals to teach gratitude for what one has and the joy of helping others in need. Sharing what one has can diminish materialism (Hammer, 2012).

Many families in my life have dinner table activities such as “Name a high and a low,” which create ritualized discussion of gratitude nightly. The wonderful thing about this approach is it allows for authentic connection and communication to happen in general. Families who engage in this practice are not saying, “we only accept you if you sugarcoat your life.” Families instead allow children to come as their real selves–happy, sad, the range of emotion, and let it be known that their family can handle that conversation. Still, we teach children that even in the challenging times, we can find a reason to be grateful.

Gratitude Happens in Safe Environments

According to research, the other piece to teaching gratitude to children is to give them secure relationships in which to be vulnerable, in which to fail, in which to figure out who they are. All those pieces of knowing themselves, figuring out adaptability, and having healthy relationships with others reduce anxiety and create comfort and safety, so a child can have the space necessary to reflect on gratitude. The more present-minded, mindful, and unhurried we allow our children to be, the more room there is for gratitude to become a part of their thoughts and lives.

Any of us can think about times in life we felt ostracized or rejected. The precariousness of unstable relationships can make failure much scarier. Now, add the helplessness of child’s inability to care for themselves and the need for survival.  Abuse, neglect, or trauma make gratitude much more difficult, for very understandable reasons.

The hopeful thing we know from the literature (Ludy Dobson and Perry, 2010 and DuFrense, 2012) is it just takes one stable adult, showing empathy to a child, to build their sense of safety and coping skills in the world. I work in schools, and while many children have secure relationships and loving families, not all of them do. We can all choose to be an adult who shows up in a consistent and warm manner, not allowing a child’s behavior to change the warmth with which we approach them, any of us can be that one secure relationship.

We have a huge responsibility to our kids. Inspiring gratitude takes more than saying, “be thankful,” to our children. It takes adults devoted to living in a state of gratitude. It is our job to model gratitude and foster safe relationships for the children in our lives. With practice, children can understand and even make a habit of this skill.

Kimberly Trippodo is a Social Worker for Waco ISD. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, anything from fiction, to poetry, to policy analyses, to blog posts. Her other modes of creative expression are culinary concoctions, her violin, and community events. She incorporates art as an expressive outlet in her work with students. She loves all the social and cultural growth happening in Waco, and most weekends, she is out and about in Waco, enjoying the city with her husband and son. You may reach her at

 The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these asirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.orpirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email for more information.


Baumgartner, Audra. 2013. “Teaching Kids Gratitude and Empathy Year-Long.” Pediatric Safety.

DuFrense, Susan. 2016. “Safe Adults & Creating Compassionate Schools Parts 1-4” Living in Dialogue.

Hammer,  Connie. 2012. “Growing Gratitude in Children With or Without Autism.” Parent Coaching for Autism.

Kupferschmid, Sarah. 2015.  “Gratitude, Autism, and ABA.” Behavioral Science in the 21st Century.

Ludy-Dobson, Christine and Perry, Bruce. 2010. “The Role of Healthy Relational Interactions in Buffering the Impact of Childhood Trauma.” Working with Children to Heal Interpersonal Trauma: The Power of Play.


Tami’s Big Do Over: And, Scene…

(Tami Nutall Jefferson, a married mother and grandmother, is going back to school and she has invited us all along to enjoy the ride.  For more posts in this series, click here: Tami’s Big Do Over.  – ABT )

by Tami Nutall Jefferson

Lessons Learned

The Fall 2017 semester is wrapping up, and the lessons have been many.

For instance, my landscape architecture course was confirmation of how much I dislike history. Yet, I learned that much of today’s architecture, city and town planning, societal philosophies, gentrification, classism, religion and so much more actually originated thousands to hundreds of years ago in the Europe and Asia. I realized the Bible is true, when it says that “…there is [absolutely] nothing new under the sun.” The point is, whether in college or not, learning expands your view and objectivity of the world and helps put all of its issues into perspective – a perspective which is often skewed by inaccurate media, gossip, myths, legends, and lack of a knowledge of history and other cultures.

As for myself, I learned that, while the university application process can be intense, that same level of intensity is not built within every student. I assumed that every student, would have the same fervor, over-achieving spirit, and GPA that I have. I realized during the course of my first group project, that is so not the case. Everyone cannot perform academically well, nor do they want to when they have other classes and social activities to prioritize. I learned, through the help of my Leadership Plenty cohorts, that I really have to meet people where they are and not weigh them (or myself) down with my super high expectations.

I also learned that people need stuff to do – all day, everyday. I only took two classes because I wanted to ease into this TAMU academic life and not overload myself. What actually happened was that I underwhelmed myself. I had way to too much time on my hands; time that I filled with volunteering, business, and Monk (the TV show). My courses, I ended up procrastinating on because I knew I could do it in the final 2 hours before deadline. So, next semester is jam-packed with courses and work. The extra pressure actually leads to greater productivity.

Greatest lesson of all – for someone who’s car drives only a maximum of 15 minutes from home, in any direction – is that I (and my car) can actually make the 82-mile drive to Bryan-College Station with a smile. I practiced several times this year. I’m in training for the 2018-19 school year, when I’ll have to make that drive weekly.

A Journey Between Sisters

My next – and last – “old lady student” interview this semester, is my very own sister. The back story is that I’ve always been thought of as the career student in the family, while we were just glad that she finished high school. She never voiced her dreams or goals; she just existed in her own happy world. She’s definitely the Type C to my Type A personality. Early in her 20’s, she got a necessity-job as a nursing home nurse’s aid. We were proud of her for just doing something. But out of all of us, she’s been the most stable one over the last 2 decades with her job and family. But this summer, she shocked me, when she enrolled for her first semester at college. You would think I already know the answers to these questions, but I’m learning them just as you are. So, it is my pleasure to hear her journey. Let the interview begin.

Something About Erica

TNJ > Hello Sister. You haven’t been to school since high school in 2001. What made you think of going back to school at 34 years old and what made you actually decide to do it?

EW > I have been thinking about going to school for the last 3-4 years, but I’ve always found a reason not to go – made up a gazillion excuses. But what made me actually decide to go was just looking at my kids and realizing I want more for them and I’m tired of living paycheck to paycheck. I have a job, but jobs usually do not get you very far. I needed a career.


TNJ > What are you studying and how will it change your and your family’s life.?

EW > I’m studying Nursing. My end goal is to be a Director of Nursing, still in the long-term care industry.  Nursing will change my life by allowing me to be more able to adequately provide for my family.


TNJ > What does it feel like being a first-time college student at 34?

EW > Going back to school after being out for some years is a bit challenging. Trying to balance all the schedules that I have in life such as work, school, and kids plus trying to study and do homework is a bit harder for me then it would be for some of my classmates who do not have half of those responsibilities. I’m trying my best to embrace being a first-time student though.


TNJ > What have you learned so far after your very first semester?

EW > What I’ve learned so far this school year is that I need to manage my time more wisely. Procrastination is not my friend. I need to go ahead and start on assignments, if possible, as soon as I get them so I won’t be cramming hard the night before.


TNJ > What advice would you give to another person thinking they’re too old to go to college or they’re not the “academic type”?

EW > My advice to anyone is go ahead and go to school. Age doesn’t matter. These years are going to pass anyways so you might as well be in school trying to improve your economic situation. You cannot focus on what could happen 2 years from now or how you will pay for college. You just have to do it. It will all work itself out.

Thank you Erica. Good luck on your journey. And happy holidays Waco.

Erica Williams is a student at Lone Star Community College in Houston, and is earning her Associate of Science degree for Nursing. Erica currently manages the medical records department at a long-term nursing facility, in addition to a household of 3 beautiful children and 1 husband.

Tami Nutall Jefferson is an older, non-traditional student with a professional real estate background. Tami begins her first academic year at Texas A&M University pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Urban Planning and Real Estate Development while commuting between Waco and College Station. Her hope is that Waco becomes the most attractive, modern, vibrant, and prosperous version of itself as an inclusive city and her mission is to help make that happen as a real estate developer and entrepreneur. Tami volunteers her time and voice to several downtown Waco placemaking and economic development causes and organizations. To engage and share your non-traditional student experiences with Tami, contact her at or connect with her on Facebook




Understanding Health Care: Electronic Health Records and HIPPA

By Glenn Robinson

Health care is among the most heavily regulated industries in America – virtually every aspect of the health care system is subject to government oversight.

There are regulatory mechanisms to supervise the doctors and professionals who render care; the institutions in which care is provided, such as hospitals and clinics; the medications and medical devices that are the tools of care; and the insurance coverage that finances it all. These regulations are developed and implemented by all levels of government — federal, state and local — as well as private organizations.

Everyone in health care agrees that regulations and standards are necessary to ensure compliance and to provide safe health care to every patient. Policy debates, for the most part, typically focus not on whether oversight should exist, but rather on how it should be structured. Impartial, external oversight is considered necessary to protect the public interest – even by those who are especially suspicious of government bureaucracy.

American health care has flourished over the past 100 years. Rather than hindering its progress, the complex system of government regulation actually may have served to support and nurture it.

Consider, for example, the public confidence engendered in the competence of physicians through licensure requirements and in the safety and effectiveness of prescription drugs through the Food and Drug Administration’s approval process.

Another form of regulation is known as HIPAA. At some point while filling out a bevy of forms at the doctor’s office, you may have run across this term.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, was passed by Congress in 1996 and was intended to improve health care efficiency by standardizing electronic data exchange and protect the privacy of patient records.

Since 2010, as part of national health care reform, there has been increased urgency in transitioning to digital versions of patients’ paper charts called electronic health records, or EHRs.

EHRs can contain a patient’s medical history, diagnoses, medications, treatment plans, immunization dates, test results and more. But they’re not just a replacement for paper charts.

Part of what makes EHRs so powerful is that they also allow doctors and other care providers to access evidence-based tools that can be used to make decisions about a patient’s care in real time.

Another key advantage of EHRs is convenience. Health information can be created and securely managed digitally by authorized providers and shared with other providers at other locations.

This helps cut down on the number of forms patients must fill out and can eliminate the need for duplicate testing, as well as promote legible, complete medical documentation for streamlined coding and billing.

With all this information available to be shared with the touch of a button, precautions must be taken to ensure the privacy of the patient. As EHRs continue to evolve, so must our regulation of them.

The HIPAA law’s privacy standards strive to give patients rights over their health information, and set boundaries on who can receive a patient’s personal health information. Those who must follow the law include healthcare providers such as hospitals, doctors and nurses, pharmacies, insurance companies, and government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

The law limits the use of patient information by health care providers to specific purposes. Patient information can only be shared if it is necessary to coordinate treatment, pay providers for patient care, protect public health, assist police in criminal investigations, or assist family, relatives or friends responsible for care or paying medical bills – unless the patient objects.

HIPAA also requires healthcare providers to inform patients how they may use and share their health information, and grants certain rights to patients regarding their health information,  such as receiving copies of their health records upon request and being informed if their health information is being used or shared.

If you are ever concerned that your personal health information is being improperly used or shared, you have the right to file a complaint either with the federal government or your healthcare provider.

So while regulation may be seen merely as red tape in some industries; in health care, it provides a critical public protection.

This report, and other episodes, are available at

Glenn Robinson is the President of Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Hillcrest. He has over 30 years of experience in hospital and health care management, and currently serves on several Boards associated with the Texas Hospital Association and the American Hospital Association. In addition, Glenn is Past-Chair and an active member of the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, and serves on the Prosper Waco Board.


Brook Avenue Elementary: Living into Excellence

By Hannah Rigg

A neighborhood school.  Each morning children are dropped off at the front entrance of Brook Avenue Elementary School and personally greeted by Brook Avenue staff as they make their way to their classrooms.  Each afternoon, those same families are congregated outside of the school waiting to walk home with their children.  This is what a neighborhood school looks like.

Brook Avenue is in the second year under the leadership of Principal Sarah Pedrotti and Assistant Principal Jessica Torres.  They are faced with the challenge of leading Brook Avenue out of the Improvement Required status as set by Texas Education Agency (TEA).  You may have read recently that Brook Avenue is one of the five Waco ISD campuses that is at risk of closure at the end of the 2017-2018 school year.  Although the threat of closure is one reality, excellence is the reality that Brook Avenue is living into.  To ensure excellence, it will take the full dedication of this Waco community.

In the three full months that I have been working at Brook Avenue, I have experienced a transformed campus.  Students are provided with opportunities to improve their reading skills through CIS groups, Kids Hope USA mentors, and literacy groups with staff.  Students receive a book on their birthday.

When students miss class, they miss instruction time with their teacher and classroom engagement. We need our students in the classroom actively engaging in the work they are completing to ensure increased test scores. At Brook Avenue, attendance is rewarded at each six-week period in order to encourage students to come to school consistently.

Communication between the school and community has increased, and so has the level of involvement.

Brook Avenue is redefining itself as a neighborhood school where families and community members are invited onto campus.  The first Tuesday of each month you will find a group of parents gathered in the lunchroom for Coffee and Conversations.  The November meeting was filled with determination as parents refuse to allow Brook Avenue to fall below standards for another consecutive year. Every parent in attendance signed up to volunteer to read with students or to support teachers by completing preparation activities.

As Brook Avenue continues to work towards success, they are creatively supported by their new staff provided by the Texas Title I Priority Schools (TTIPS) Grant, Columbus Avenue Baptist Church (Kids Hope USA Mentors), Communities in Schools (CIS), Klaras Center for Families, and the BEAR (Be Emotionally Aware and Responsive) Project. Each agency has responded zealously to the call for improvement this school year.

The TTIPS grant has allowed Brook Avenue to become a campus of innovation. Initiated by parents and funded by the TTIPS Grant, an outdoor classroom will be created in the back of the school allowing teachers to uniquely engage their students during lessons.  And, a Maker’s Space allows students to utilize creativity as they bring their learning to life. The TTIPS grant made it possible to purchase one iPad for each student to promote technological learning.  It also heled support non-traditional seating options for classrooms so that the classroom can be arranged to better suit the learning styles of the children.  The grant has also enabled additional learning trips for all students.  These trips give students an opportunity to make connections between their classroom learning and hands on real-world experience. As a campus, we are honored that the state has recognized Brook Avenue as a priority for receiving this funding and it is essential that our community recognize Brook Avenue as a priority as well.

Look for the hashtag #BrAveLearns on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook throughout the year as we watch Brook Avenue achieve success. Our students are learning, our teachers are engaging, and our community is behind us.  The next time you see Brook Avenue Elementary School in the news, look for their accomplishments.

Hannah Rigg is a student in the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work and serves as a social work intern on campus at Brook Avenue and West Avenue Elementary Schools through the BEAR Project.  She has been living in Waco for two years and loves exploring this city.



Who is The Salvation Army of Waco?

By Major Anita Caldwell

In 1890, William Booth, the founder of The Salvation Army, wrote Darkest England and the Way Out.  He envisioned a world where the poor and needy were provided a way out of their poverty.  He was convinced that a cab horse was treated with a better standard of living than the poor of London.  He opened a work bureau to help people find work.  Next, he purchased a farm where men could be trained in various forms of work so they could get employment and gain self-respect.  A match factory was operated by The Salvation Army to provide work as well.  He laid a foundation for impact assistance.

Serving McLennan County since 1891, The Salvation Army is dedicated to serving the community and being good stewards of donor dollars.  Widely recognized for our homeless shelters and community soup kitchen, our services extend far beyond essential needs.  While meeting emergency needs is critical, our goal is to identify the underlying causes of crisis and tailor our services to break the cycle of poverty for this and future generations as we guide individuals toward long-term financial stability and independence.

We join Prosper Waco and United Way of Waco – McLennan County in addressing education, financial security, and health along with our providing essential services to those who walk through our doors.

We educate others daily in the following areas:

  • Youth – Character building classes, music education, and church youth group activities provide opportunities to continually educate youth with life-long skills to empower them into adulthood and break the cycle of poverty and crisis.
  • Homeless – One-on-one case management, life skills classes and employment referrals are provided to homeless families and single individuals to identify and address any educational gaps preventing their success.
  • Veterans – Life skills and budgeting classes are offered through one-on-one case management.
  • Seniors/Disabled – Our William and Catherine Booth Apartment Complexes provide an affordable housing option for low-income seniors and disabled adults. The Salvation Army also affords education in life skills, health and nutrition, and assistance with home health care benefits to the residents. We connect residents to vocational training, money management, budgeting, lease education and other programs to prevent issues of poverty.
  • Inmate Reintegration – Life-skills and job skills are key aspects of our Fresh Start program provided to newly released inmates to guide them toward successful re-integration into the community.
  • Red Kettle Employment Program – This program generates on-the-job training for shelter residents.
  • Anti-Trafficking Prevention Education – The Salvation Army Officer is an UnBound Professional Trainer and leads prevention training with parents specifically at local churches and community groups.

We work towards financial security in the following ways:

  • Homeless Families – Budgeting skills and financial planning are shared with homeless families, singles, elderly, and youth.
  • Veterans – Rental assistance and utility assistance are provided to prevent homelessness.
  • Christmas Assistance – Budgeting review is provided to Toys for Tots applicants.
  • Empowerment Angel Tree Program – A budgeting seminar and follow-up consultation are given to each participant.
  • Homelessness Prevention – Helps stabilize families via budget review and financial support.
  • Rapid Rehousing – We engage ongoing support/budget counseling until a family is stabilized.
  • Red Kettle Employment Program – Assists shelter residents with finances for next steps.
  • Seniors/Disabled Booth Apartments – Residents receive benefits/entitlement assistance, case management, crisis intervention, and assistance with tax preparation.
  • Fresh Start – Inmate reintegration services include budget education, job search and savings program.

We support those who come to us with their health needs by:

  • Women – Health education to homeless women, seniors, other program participants.
  • Youth – A range of programs are taught, such as first aid.
  • Veterans – Meals and shelter are free for veterans while they gain support through the VA hospital.
  • Adult Rehabilitation – For those ready to overcome drug/alcohol addiction, transportation is provided to one of five Salvation Army free addiction treatment centers in Texas.
  • Community Hunger – The Community Kitchen provides hot, nutritious meals daily to those facing hunger.
  • Warming/Cooling Centers – The Salvation Army Community Kitchen and Family Store serve as community warming or cooling centers during extreme weather, providing respite and replenishment.
  • Senior/Disabled – Booth Apartment Complex programs assure adequate nutrition, mental health services, isolation assistance and substance abuse referral as needed.
  • Homeless – Referrals to mental and physical health assistance as needed.
  • Fresh Start – Inmates receive nutritious meals, counseling, drug/alcohol training and medical assistance.
  • Spiritual – The Salvation Army church meets for worship each Sunday at 11 am. All are welcome.

Finally, we support this community with those emergency essential needs:

  • Food Pantry – Emergency food to families in need.
  • Clothing and Household Vouchers – The Salvation Army voucher program allows those living in poverty and those newly re-housed, including families and veterans, to receive critical supplies free of charge through our Family Store. Furnishings are provided to any victims of fire who have a Red Cross referral.
  • Transportation vouchers – Bus tickets.
  • Meals – Served daily at The Salvation Army Community Kitchen and during disaster response from the mobile kitchen.
  • Emergency Shelters – Short-term crisis housing for men, women and families with children.
  • Emergency Disaster Services – Including on-scene disaster assistance, post-event care and crisis intervention through case management.

While some people might think we simply provide “three hots and a cot”, we engage in upending the root causes of need while providing emergency services to those who come through our doors.  Please call our office to volunteer in any of these areas as we seek to truly make a deep and lasting difference in McLennan County.

Major Anita Caldwell was born in Olean, NY, to a family of ministers.   She attended and graduated from Kentucky Mountain Bible Institute with a BA in Religion.  Her MA is in Pastoral Leadership from Olivet Nazarene University.  She and her husband, Bradley Caldwell are Majors in The Salvation Army and are Regional Coordinators for this area.  They have served as ministers of the gospel in The Salvation Army for 24 years.  After serving in three USA appointments, they were transferred as Regional Leaders in Moldova, Romania, Russia and the country of Georgia over a twelve-year period.  They received their Waco assignment after serving at International Headquarters in London, UK.

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.