Delighted by Delight

By Ashley Bean Thornton

There are many things I love about my husband:  he knows how to grill a steak just the way I like it, he does most of the grocery shopping, he brought Mo-town and peppermint ice cream into my life, he’s good looking, etc. etc.

But, if I had to pick the one trait that I love most of all about Mr. Thornton it is that he has a wonderful capacity for delight.  He laughs out loud at the Sunday morning funnies.  When he is reading a good book, he reads the best lines out loud to me. He takes full-hearted joy in watching our dogs zoom around the house. A cookie, an onion ring, the sound of a wind chime, a full moon, clean sheets, warm towels, elephant jokes…he delights me nearly every day by taking delight in things that I might have missed.

One of the least disturbing examples of the graffiti we saw.

A few weekends ago our Waco Walks group took a walk with Erika Huddleston.  Erika is an artist who specializes in “nature paintings in urban settings.”  Thanks to the Art Center of Waco, she has a series of paintings on exhibit at the Mayborn Museum that are her interpretations of Waco Creek.  Our walk with Erika took us into parts of town that many of us – left to our own inclinations – might have avoided.  As is my habit sometimes, I saw plenty of ugly things: disturbing graffiti made all the more disturbing by the obvious artistic talent of the ones who created it, a stringer of dead fish covered with flies and stink, broken concrete and glass, and everywhere trash, trash, trash.

Thanks to Erika’s gentle leadership we also saw some beautiful things.  One of the most beautiful was standing on the 15th Street bridge overlooking Waco Creek listening to Erika talk about what she saw there. She described how the chaos and beauty of nature in the midst of the imposed structure of the city inspired and delighted her.  With the aid of her delight I saw the limestone, the fall color in the leaves, the tiny fish… all beauty I might have missed.

As part of my job at Baylor I have been doing a little tutoring at J. H. Hines Elementary.  We are trying to figure out ways that the University can partner with the public schools within a two-mile radius of campus for the benefit of both.  I was working through a box of sight word cards with a first grader the other day when he grabbed the pile of cards containing words he had

One of Erika’s Waco Creek paintings.

read successfully and fanned them out like hundred dollar bills – “Look at all the words I can read!”  he beamed.  Little kids are notorious carriers of delight.

I called my mom last night.  Our family Christmas plans are a little rushed this year and I needed to delicately negotiate spending time with Family in Houston while still getting back to Waco in time for church obligations.  I was slightly annoyed when she didn’t answer the phone.  This morning I got a text, “Sorry I missed your call – watching Sound of Music and singing along.  Please try again.”   Thanks Mom, for raising me to understand the importance of delight!

As one year sets and another rises, there are some heavy problems out there in our city and in our world.  Good people have been chopping away at them for a long time.  Sometimes it feels like we are making progress and sometimes it doesn’t.  How do we keep going?  How do we renew our spirits?  Keep an eye out for the delights along the way, my friends, and keep on chopping!  Merry Christmas to all and onward to 2018!

This Act Locally Waco blog post is by Ashley Bean Thornton, she has lived in Waco almost 20 years now.  Far longer than she ever lived anywhere else.  She likes to walk. If you see her out walking, honk and wave and say “hi!” 

 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.



Want a career helping people feel good about themselves? Consider Cosmetology or Esthetics at MCC!

By Madiha Kark

The holiday season can get to the best of us – uncontrolled food indulgences, sugary deserts, late nights, and less-than-good skincare. We’ve all been down that road, making New Year’s resolutions to take care of our skin, be healthier, and read more books.

Let’s try and take care of one of those resolutions: Taking care of our skin.

I sat down with Nicole Pepper, a student in MCC’s esthetician program, to ask her about common mistakes and myths about skincare and how to improve it. She has a bachelor’s degree from Baylor in theater design but wanted to focus more on makeup; however, “Baylor doesn’t have a strong makeup program. Everybody just kept recommending MCC’s program, so here I am!”

Getting an education in esthetics opens up doors to all sorts of career options, and MCC’s program is hands-on. Unlike other career paths in the beauty industry, esthetics offers a variety of workplaces, positions, and industries. McLennan Community College offers three certification courses through the cosmetology program: Esthetician specialist, Cosmetology Instructor, and Cosmetology. You could train to become a medical esthetician and work in doctor’s office or for a plastic surgeon, or you could become a skincare specialist working in a dermatologist’s office. You could even become a facialist working at a spa or salon. There are a lot of options!

So, let’s ask Nicole some questions to help us develop good skin habits and find out why she loves being an esthetician.

Q: What is the most common mistake when putting on makeup and how to avoid it?

Nicole: The most common mistake is not blending and buying whatever product is hot on Instagram or social media instead of understanding your skin needs. Invest in the right tools.

Q: What is the one thing people don’t realize the importance of?

Washing your brushes. At least once a week. You don’t even have to get fancy, just use a plain Dove bar soap. It works wonders.

Q: What are the essentials for a good skin-care regime?

Start with a cleanser, use an exfoliator (once a week) and moisturize. Those are the top three things if you want to start good skin habits.

Q: What changes have you made to your beauty regimen since you started the program?

I work at Beauty Brands and often times I would try new products and then buy them and they would end up under my sink. I’ve become very selective of the products I put on my face. I use a  website to check ingredients in the products. It will give a rating on products. 1 or 2 is good. The rating turns from green to red to indicate harmful chemicals in the product. A good rule of thumb is to check the first five ingredients because that’s what is working.

Q: What’s the trick to a good foundation base, other than blending?

A really good skin care regimen. Some people swear by primer, but my skin looks worse with it. So I would recommend having a really good skin care regimen. If you have that, you have a great base to work on.

Q: What’s the secret to a good smoky eye?

That’s also blending – really, really good blending. Use, a tiny brush with a fluffy dome top. Just sit and blend away.

Q: If there is one thing you would recommend to take care of your skin, what would it be?

Invest in good skin care. The idea is not to buy just whatever is in the market. Research for ingredients and check labels on what the products have.


In addition to the personal and emotional benefits, a career as an esthetician offers the potential for advancement and growth. According to some surveys, by 2024, employment of skincare specialists is projected to grow by 12 percent, which is faster than average for other professions. More and more people are interested in holistic health and overall wellbeing which estheticians can help accomplish. Since your skin is the largest organ in your body, you want to take care of it. At MCC’s state-of-the-art facility, the machines and techniques that are taught allow for hands-on experience, meaning you can step into the workforce as soon as you complete one of the certificates.

For more information on the cosmetology and esthetician program, as well as salon hours, visit Find out how you can start your career in holistic health and wellbeing at MCC!

Madiha Kark is a Marketing, Communications and Photography Specialist at McLennan Community College. She holds an M.A. in Journalism from the University of North Texas. She loves to travel, cook, and read nonfiction books.

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.



2017 Greatest Hits #6: Four Things I Wish I Had Known in High School

(During December we will be reprising some of  “2017’s greatest hits” from the Act Locally Waco blog. 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 “Top 10” idea inspires you to go back and re-read your personal favorites.  There have been so many terrific ones… If you would like to see the Top 10 according to Google Analytics, here’s the link: 2017 Greatest Hits.  Merry Christmas! — ABT) 

By Kassidy Munden

After my first year of college, I began to realize there were things I really (and I mean really) wish I had known in high school to help make my transition to college smoother.

The first thing I would advise any high schooler would be to take the high school anatomy class. I didn’t think I would ever need anatomy in my future profession, or even have to take it in college, but I could not have been more wrong about that. High school students considering going to college should seriously consider taking an anatomy class. My biggest regret about not taking anatomy in high school was that when I got to college, I was far behind my classmates and didn’t know a single thing. You can imagine how well a 100-question test over blood flow in the body went for me three weeks into my freshman year.

The second thing I would recommend for any high schooler would be to take dual credit in high school. Looking back on high school, that had to be one of the best educational decisions I made to prepare for college. Thanks to dual credit, I had all of my core English classes completed by the time I began college. Not only was it one less major class I had to take, I also learned how to properly write college papers. This helped me in my other classes as well, because in every class, even math, I had to write some type of proper essay. Knowing how to format and write these essays before my freshman year paid off in a huge way. I wish I had known to take more of the dual credit classes my high school offered, because even though they seemed difficult, they were more rewarding in the long run than they seemed at the time.

The third thing I wish I had known was to take the college transition class offered. Most high schools offer a college transition class and extend the class to all seniors. I did take this class, but I wish I had taken it more seriously. This class teaches students about life in college and how to live on your own, as well as educational enhancements such as how to build a resume. Looking back now, I wish I had learned how to build a proper resume, because that is something I will need for anything and everything. Most freshmen take classes requiring them to build a resume of some sort, and trust me, learning about it in detail in high school is easier than trying to learn it on your own in college.

The fourth and final thing I wish I had known was to get a job or internship. Most high school students declare their major “undecided” when entering their freshman year of college, which is completely normal. However, I wish I had explored more job opportunities and taken internships. These not only look great on a resume but also help you develop an idea of what you might actually want to get a degree in. Having more of a background in several different positions makes you a more diverse and knowledgeable individual. Did I mention it also will give you a stronger resume when you apply for college? That is key for all aspiring college students.

High school is a profound experience-building time for everyone, and I highly recommend that college-bound students seek out all of the opportunities available, because they definitely will pay off in the long run.

Kassidy Munden is a summer intern at ESC Region 12 in the College and Career Readiness/CTE department. She is a student at Texas Tech University and wanted to share her wisdom with current high school students.

2017 Greatest Hits #4: Fighting a Monster of our Own Creation

(During December we will be reprising some of  “2017’s greatest hits” from the Act Locally Waco blog. 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 “Top 10” idea inspires you to go back and re-read your personal favorites.  There have been so many terrific ones… If you would like to see the Top 10 according to Google Analytics, here’s the link: 2017 Greatest Hits.  Merry Christmas! — ABT) 

By Andre’ Watkins

Growing up in Waco, Texas, gives you a certain kind of insight.  Waco is a mid-sized community that allows its citizens the distinct opportunity to experience all of the levels of socioeconomic strata with ease.  Just take a ride down Colcord Ave.  You will see the homes of the very affluent and the homes of the desolately hopeless on the same block.  This is my Waco.

This Waco has a long history. During the 60’s and 70’s, Waco participated in a federal program called “Urban Renewal” meant to improve blighted areas of town.  Under this program (called “Urban Removal” by those who questioned its value) entire family units were removed from neighborhoods where they had built and maintained homes and raised families.  Those who remained were expected to pull themselves up by their proverbial bootstraps, which proved to be a difficult task.

Around the mid-eighties, crack cocaine ripped through my beloved city on a euphoric rampage.  Crack took from the rich and poor alike.  This gruesome drug fueled demon was never a black or white problem.  It was a drug addiction problem.

Crack cocaine changed the landscape of Waco.  Middle-class families fled to the suburbs. Neighborhood stores closed.  Restaurants and grocery retailers were boarded up.  This left a power vacuum in the inner city of Waco that attracted crime and despair.

A chasm opened up between the people who left and the often impoverished people who remained.  Waco ISD finds itself in the position of needing to bridge this chasm.  To bridge this chasm we have to be honest with ourselves: very often there is a serious disconnect between the community we serve as a school district and the service providers that work in our schools.

To address this situation we have to deal with some hard questions: How do we expect people to model their behavior after the behavior of those who left them to languish in lack?  Why should I as an impoverished person seek to exemplify a lifestyle of a person or people who won’t even come to my neighborhood?  Do you really care about me?  Or am I a charity case or pet project?

Realizing this disconnect, we knew that we had to switch up the flow.  To combat this monster of our own creation, we began to search for methods that other school districts were utilizing successfully.

Restorative Discipline just seemed to jump off of the pages of training manuals and speak directly to the heart of our issues here in Waco ISD.

To quote from the website of Life Anew, a non-profit in Austin that brings restorative practices into local community schools, “Restorative processes create a space where students and adults can develop empathy, respect and common values by listening and learning from one another. This process helps to increase the effectiveness of instruction time, build community and develop students socially and emotionally.”

At the heart of Restorative Discipline Practices, we find a tradition as ancient as the campfire circles of old, the Intentional Conversation.  Intentional Conversations are simply focused discussions that seek to determine the root cause of an exhibited behavior.

We acknowledge the truth in the statement made by Sherwynn Patton, Executive Director of Life Anew, “Adverse behavior is just the smoke; when we find the reasons for the behavior, we locate the source, the fire.”  We had been spending too much time putting the waters of our logic and education on the smoke.  We never dug deep enough with our conversation skills and listening hearts to determine the location of the fires in our precious students’ souls.

As we began to have Intentional Conversations together as staff at Waco High, we began to seek and find our similarities as PEOPLE and to break down our cultural bias.  We then began to spread this infection of emotional affection for the staff through the students into our community.  Waco High dropped its rate of suspension by 46% in two years of Restorative Practices implementation.  I don’t care who you are or where you are from – That is impressive!  We celebrate and invite our community at large to join us in repairing harm and establishing community unity.

Andre’ E. Watkins is a Restorative Discipline Facilitator at Waco High School. He has 16 years of experience working with at risk youth and their families including serving as Detention Supervisor at Bill Logue Juvenile Justice Center and a Training Officer at McLennan County Challenge Academy. He was a Dorm Supervisor at TYC Mart, and is the only person in the State of Texas to be promoted from JCO 1 to JCO 5 in 30 days. He volunteers at the Doris Miller YMCA, as a Prosper Waco Community Engagement Committee Member and as a Football and Basketball Coach for the Waco Eagles.  He is also a Park Ranger for the City of Waco.

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.