Prosper Waco Hires Hermann Pereira as Senior Content Specialist to Advance and Strengthen Work in Education

Prosper Waco is pleased to announce the hiring of Hermann Pereira as senior content specialist for education. In this role, Pereira will implement strategic approaches to engage the Waco community in collaborative work for the measurable betterment of education, deepen the engagement of Prosper Waco’s partners in education, coordinate and mobilize community working groups and manage Prosper Waco leadership projects related to education. Along with these tasks, Pereira will work to ensure Prosper Waco’s accountability to funders through grant management, planning, reporting and budgeting; while also serving as a liaison with community leaders in Waco and state and regional educational organizations. Pereira will provide assistance in building partner capacity in data collection and interpretation as he works with Prosper Waco research and evaluation staff as they analyze and interpret data for shared measurement.

“We welcome Hermann Pereira to the work of Prosper Waco.  Waco already knows him as a proven champion for children, their education and their hope for a bright future,” said Prosper Waco CEO Suzii Paynter March. “Waco is preparing educational pathways for success and we look forward to Hermann’s leadership for years to come.”

Pereira has spent the past 14 years in education in a variety of roles such as teacher, coach, director, assistant principal, and principal. In his most recent role Pereira was the principal of Connally Career Tech Pathways in Technology Early College High School as well as the Career and Technology Education Director at Connally ISD. His leadership has earned his campus and district a number of grants and recognitions from the Texas Education Agency, University of Texas STEM Center, Educate Texas and Texas State Technical College. He also spends his summers as a National Staff Developer for Advancement Via Individual Determination. He has led professional development in leadership, curriculum, culturally relevant teaching, and career and technology. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Stephen F. Austin State University and a Masters in Educational Administration from Baylor University.

Pereira believes community partnerships are the vehicle to creating sustainable solutions. He serves as the chair of the Prosper Waco working group Heart of Texas P-20 Council which brings together representatives from the independent school districts (ISD), McLennan Community College, Texas State Technical College, Region 12 Education Service Center, industry, chambers of commerce and government. The organization works to promote streamlined, transparent degree pathways for students to move quickly and successfully through their education and on to college and/or a career. Hermann is active with the United Way of Central Texas and was a founding member of the Young Leaders United affinity group. He serves on the City of Waco Parks and Recreation board and the Centex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce board as well. Hermann was recently recognized by the Waco Chamber of Commerce as one of the “Top 40 under 40” individuals in the community and Educator of the Year by the Centex African American Chamber of Commerce.

“I am excited about what is in store for 2020. I have been a passionate educator for the past 14 years in the Waco area so this opportunity is a natural progression in my career,” Pereira said of his new role. “Working at Prosper Waco will allow me to advocate and bridge the gap for all students in Waco.”

Prosper Waco is a collective impact initiative focused on addressing issues facing the Greater Waco community in the areas of education, health and financial security. As a facilitator and convener, Prosper Waco encourages collaboration amongst existing nonprofits, city and county governments, business, foundations and churches to build on and increase the effectiveness of current efforts and develop new strategies to bring about measurable and sustainable positive change within the focus areas for the members of our community. For more information, please contact

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: Eating Gluten Free in Waco

Top 10  “Most Opened” Blog Posts of 2019: # 5

By Ellie Triplett

If you avoid gluten for any reason, eating out can be a challenge. If you’ve been doing it for any amount of time, you’re probably an old pro at the basics of avoidance when it comes to regular menus. But what about when you want something as classic as a cheeseburger? Where do you go for your macaroni and cheese cravings? Where can you find gluten-free pancakes? Or, the golden chalice of gluten-free eating, where can you go for pastries? Never fear, my friends, you are in luck. I am here to tell you that you are living in a town with a growing culinary culture, with restaurants that provide an impressive array of allergen friendly dining options. What follows is a very basic, non-comprehensive list of where to find your fill of sans-gluten treats in good ol’ Wacotown.

It seems logical to start with breakfast. If you are looking for pancakes, Café Cappuccino (with three locations at 100 N. 6th St., 1101 Richland Dr., and 903 N. Hewitt Dr.) is known for its amazing, plate sized pancakes, and now they come in gluten-free! I have personally ordered and enjoyed them.

Uptown features wonderful vegan and gluten- free waffles at Luna Juice Bar (1516 Austin Ave.). In carrot, matcha, and strawberry, the waffles are made with oat flour, gluten-free flour, or coconut flour and topped with coconut whipped cream, and are DELICIOUS. Pair them with a smoothie, or a cold pressed juice and you’ve got a perfect breakfast. Luna Juice also has a full menu of delicious salads, soups, and wraps, if you need a quick lunch later in the day.

Down the street at Harvest on 25th (112 N. 25th St.) you can continue your breakfasting or slide right into brunch with gluten free muffins, pancakes, or avocado toast. They offer ways to make their entire menu gluten-free and also offer gluten- free pizzas.

Since we’ve moved on to lunch, and specifically pizza, it is worth mentioning that Poppa Rollos (a long time local favorite at 703 N. Valley Mills) offers a good gluten-free version, and both Slow Rise Slice House (7608 Woodway Dr.), and 900 Degrees Pizzeria (315 S. University Parks) have cauliflower crusts which are keto friendly as well as being gluten-free.

If you’re craving a hamburger, look no further than Tom’s Burgers (6818 Sanger Ave.) It is a mom and pop burger joint that has just recently been brought to my attention for their gluten-free buns.

A newer option with gluten-free buns and bread is Revival East Side Eatery (704 Elm Ave.). They have a full menu, including soups and salads, so you’re sure to find something for everyone.

If you’re looking for the kings of comfort food (in my opinion), macaroni and cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches, look no further than The Mac House (3428 Franklin Ave.). Their artisan sandwiches and macaroni creations are amazing, and worth every penny and every minute you’ll spend waiting (it’s a bit, y’all, but worth it!).

Which leads me to my favorite way to splurge on gluten-free food; the pastries. Fabled Bookshop downtown (215 S. 4th St.) has gluten free lemon poppy seed cake as a part of their newly opened café, alongside literary themed drinks and other snacks. However, Baked Bliss (1114 N. 15th St.) is truly the sweet spot for sweets (see what I did there?) with cinnamon rolls, cranberry orange scones, brownies, chocolate chip cookies, blueberry muffins, and bacon cheddar scones (if you’re feeling the savory side of things) all offered gluten-free daily. You can pre order their gluten-free bread, which they bake on Wednesdays in a completely gluten-free kitchen, on Tuesday mornings.  They also have gluten-free cakes, cupcakes, lemon shortbread, and pecan shortbread cookies, all of which can be made ahead of time for special events.

Phew! It’s a lot! A couple of things to note as we wrap up. Firstly, I am not a food blogger, or really any type of blogger. In many of these cases, I have eaten and enjoyed the food, but this is not true across the board. As a result, I did not attempt to describe in too much detail the experience of eating the food, so as to be fair. Secondly, this is by no means a comprehensive list. If your restaurant, or your favorite restaurant was left off the list, it is in no way meant as a slight. I polled my friends, asked for help, and sent out a few cursory messages asking for clarification on menu items. The result is this post. If I made a grievous error, leave us a comment! Share your knowledge! Thirdly, it is important to keep in mind that there are no certified gluten-free kitchens on this list. Most things will experience some level of cross contamination, and you are, as always, advised to check with your servers and express your level of allergy, and make an informed decision for yourself.

Happy (and safe!) eating, friends!

A couple of other resources…

Ellie Triplett is a book lover, weaver, former bee keeper, and enneagram four.  She lives and works (and eats) in Waco alongside her spouse and their three children. 

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.

Top 10: The Tool Shed thrift shop: a new Waco store to benefit Friends for Life

Top 10  “Most Opened” Blog Posts of 2019: # 7

By Easton Preston, MSW

Friends For Life (FFL) has opened a thrift shop to help fund our programs serving the elderly and people with disabilities. Instead of a normal resale shop with clothing and furniture, the Tool Shed refurbishes and sells used tools of all kinds. FFL got the idea of the Tool Shed Thrift Shop from one of our most helpful volunteers, Kevin Lane. Kevin and his wife recently moved to Hewitt and came to FFL’s January open house.

After hearing Inez Russell’s stories about FFL, Kevin approached Inez and her husband, Bill, about a Tool Thrift Shop in Fairport, New York that raises money for a charity that serves the elderly. That volunteer-staffed store collected tool donations and sold them for 50-90% off retail price. (Learn more about them here: It was such a great and unique idea that we decided to bring it to Waco. With a lot of help from Kevin and the Thrift Shop in New York, we moved forward on this idea this past March. Between March and August, we started advertising and collecting donations and volunteers. The soft opening was on August 14th and it has been going great ever since. In the past four weeks, we have customers that come in weekly to check out the new tools we have at great prices. 

Over 100 people attended our grand opening celebration including Jimmy Don, who has done work for Joanna Gaines on Fixer Upper. Jimmy Don made and donated a metal sign of our logo that is displayed at the shop. Some of the festivities included raffle prizes including tickets to Baylor football, basketball, soccer, volleyball tickets, a Common Grounds gift card, a $50 gift card from Waco Custom Meats, a Magnolia gift bag and tour, a necklace from Waco Jewelers, gift cards to The Tool Shed, and a $50 Academy gift card. There were coffee and donuts donated by Dunkin Donuts and hot dogs donated by Super United IGA in Hewitt. Paul Catalina from ESPN came out for remote broadcasting and interviews.  We even had an online silent auction of vintage, unique, and antique tools. Thank you to all who came out, donated, and helped us celebrate our official opening! 

The Tool Shed depends on the community to help keep us running. Donations of old, new, used, or broken tools and hardware, volunteers to help, and shoppers are always needed. We need volunteers for a wide variety of things. Volunteers can help run the cash register, collect donations, paint, clean tools, fix tools, stock shelves, price tools, sort hardware and even help educate customers. Knowledge of tools is not needed. Volunteer hours are flexible. Come for two hours once a month or come every week, whatever fits in your schedule. Donating is easy! Stop by the Tool Shed to drop off a donation between 2 and 6 PM Wednesday through Friday or Saturday 10 to 3. Because of the help from Texas Junk Removal, we can also pick up your donated tools if that is easier for you. Contact Easton at the Tool Shed to arrange pick-ups or another drop off time.

The Tool Shed is located at 430 Lake Air Dr.  It is currently open for customers Thursday and Friday, from 2:00-6:00 pm and Saturday from 10:00-3:00. We hope to see you all there!

 Easton Preston is the Communications Coordinator & Tool Shed Manager at Friends for Life. In 2017, Easton moved to Waco from Dowagiac, Michigan, to attend Baylor’s Diane R. Garland School of Social Work with a community focus and in 2018 graduated with a Master of Social Work. In her spare time, she loves all types of crafting including quilting, making custom cups, home decor and more.  Contact Easton at or 254.772.8100 ext. 501 

Top 10: Reflections on Leadership Waco

Top 10  “Most Opened” Blog Posts of 2019: # 6

By Austin Meek

As someone who thought he knew a lot about this city before starting Leadership Waco, I finished the Greater Waco Chamber’s year-long training course with a more robust and nuanced view of the issues and opportunities facing Waco than I’d ever dreamed possible.

I’ve hosted “Downtown Depot,” my radio show and podcast that airs on 103.3 KWBU-FM, for almost three years. On the program, I interview the small business owners, civic leaders, and engaged citizens leading Waco’s revitalization. I’ve spent literally hundreds of hours thinking about this community, both by myself and with other engaged parties, and did not expect to find much that I didn’t already know through Leadership Waco.

But, of course, as it has time and time again, Waco surprised me.

Before Leadership Waco, I never knew that Mars Wrigley, which operates a confectionery on Texas Central Parkway, is the single largest consumer of granulated sugar in the world, and 85-90 percent of Skittles, Starburst, and Snickers bars in North America are made right here in the heart of Texas.

Before Leadership Waco, I was unaware that historic Oakwood Cemetery, nationally known for its collection of angels adorning headstones, bears the remains of three Texas governors – Sul Ross, Richard Coke, and Pat Neff.

I’d never heard the incredible story of perseverance from Melissa Pardun of Maker’s Edge, a now-popular makerspace on 18th and Austin Avenue. After opening in January 2015, Melissa spent four months wondering why she’d followed this hair-brained dream before finally registering her first paying member in May. Despite the slow start, Maker’s Edge now serves between 100-120 members and employs six people.

Through Leadership Waco, I discovered a community that punches above its weight class in nearly every category. Whether it was the breadth and depth of the city’s non-profit network, or the quality of cultural offerings from the Waco Symphony Orchestra and Cultivate 712, or the millions of dollars poured into researching renewable technologies at the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC), it’s clear that Waco is no longer just a sleepy town on the Brazos. It’s a rapidly developing metropolis with the resources, strategy, and ambition to become the next great Texas city.

Through its monthly gatherings focused on specific industries, Leadership Waco helped me to see a complete picture of our community. It also introduced me to contemporaries who have a similar vision for what Waco can become. I hope you’ll consider applying for Leadership Waco and watch as your understanding and admiration for this city grows.

The Waco Chamber is accepting applications for Leadership Waco Class XXXVI is until Friday, May 24. Please click here for more information.

Austin Meek is an entrepreneur based in Waco, Texas. For his media company, Waco Business News, he hosts the bi-monthly radio show and podcast, “Downtown Depot,” which first aired in September 2016 on 103.3 KWBU-FM. On “Downtown Depot,” he dialogues with the small business owners, civic leaders, and engaged citizens spearheading Waco’s revitalization. He also owns and operates Pokey O’s Cookies and Ice Cream in Waco and is developing real estate on Elm Avenue. Vox, Waco Business News

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.