Top 10 “Most Opened” Blog Posts of 2019

by Ashley Bean Thornton

One of my favorite things to do in the world is edit the Act Locally Waco blog.

December is a wonderful, but hectic, month for most of us. Because of that, it has become our tradition to give our beautiful bloggers a month to focus on family, friends and the joys of the holidays rather than on meeting our blog deadlines.  So, for the month of December we will have one or two new posts, but mainly we will be reprising “2019’s greatest hits.”

I couldn’t possibly pick my favorites – so I used the simple (cop out?)  approach of pulling up the 10 blog posts that got the most “opens” according to our Google Analytics.  It is an intriguing collection that gives at least a little insight into the interests and concerns of Act Locally Waco readers.

I hope this list inspires you to go back and re-read your personal favorites.  There have been so many terrific ones… but of course they couldn’t all be in the list of the 10 most opened. I would love for you to reply in the comments or on the Facebook page with a note about some of your favorites.

We will be reposting these in the next few weeks between now and the new year — but I know some of you are “list” people who would like to see them all at once.  So, I offer the list below, with thanks to everyone who has written for the blog this year, with pride in what we have created together, and with no small amount of wonder at the beautiful complexity that makes up our beloved community!  Enjoy!

Think of it as a Christmas present from your community to you, and invitation for you to write in 2020! – ABT

10. I Make Kids Cry by Michael Jeter

9. Runaway Rock Star by Kamayah Miles

8. The MCC Cosmetology Salon is Getting a Makeover by Mandie Meier

7. The Tool Shed thrift shop: a new Waco store to benefit Friends for Life by Easton Preston, MSW

6. Reflections on Leadership Waco by Austin Meek

5. Eating Gluten Free in Waco  by Ellie Triplett

4. On Rivers and Rye: a Farmers Market Update by Bethel Erickson-Bruce

3. A letter from a First Generation Mexican Immigrant, Naturalized Citizen, US Patriot by Reyna Reyes

2. MCC Alum Sweetening up the Neighborhood!  by Phillip Ericksen

1. Thinking about how Waco would respond to an influx of immigrants by Grecia Chavira

Top 10: Runaway Rock Star

Top 10  “Most Opened” Blog Posts of 2019: # 9

Is your child looking for something to do this summer? Why not encourage him/her to write and illustrate a novel? That’s What Kamayah Miles did!

Kamayah Miles is 9 years old and will be a 5th grader at Connally Elementary. She developed a love for writing at the age of 5.  Kamayah’s other hobbies are drawing, arts/crafts, reading and baking cookies with her mom. She dreams of being an author and a chef.

We have some pretty amazing young people in our community! Here is Kamayah’s novel: Runaway Rockstar! Read it now so you can say…”I knew her when…” Thanks for sharing your work with us, Kamayah! We are proud of you!

Top 10: I Make Kids Cry

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

By Michael Jeter

Sometimes part of my job is making kids cry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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