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!

ARTPrenticeship 2019 Broadens Horizons for WISD Interns

By Kennedy Sam

In summer of 2018, through a partnership with Creative Waco, Waco ISD, Prosper Waco’s summer intern program, and generous local sponsors, ARTPrenticeship was brought to life. Ten rising seniors from Waco ISD gained real-world, concept-to-completion, mentored work experience and created the mural “1000 Hopes for Waco” in the process.

Richard C. Thomas (Photo by Andreas Zaloumis)

This summer, we are back for year two — but this time with two walls. Similar to last year, we’ve hired 12 apprentices from Waco ISD and six local professional artists serving as the creative team guiding the apprentices. One new addition to this year’s program is well-known New Orleans artist and muralist, Richard C. Thomas, serving as a teaching artist and lead designer on one of the murals.

Thomas’ work graces the New Orleans International Airport, an Iowan mural dedicated to immigration, 20th anniversary posters for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and on the walls at Waco’s own Kieran-Sistrunk Fine Art Gallery during the month of July.

You can find the murals in-progress at Brotherwell Brewing and the Family Health Center’s Martin Luther King Jr. Community Clinic.

We want to get the Waco community involved as much as possible, so we invite you to Community Paint Days! Join our apprentices and creative team for the morning to paint and learn more about their experiences working with ARTPrenticeship, plus get a sneak peak of the designs. No experience needed, just come out and support our young creatives as they make their mark!

Family Health Center – MLK Jr. Clinic

July 13, 8 – 11 a.m.

Brotherwell Brewing

July 20, 8 – 11 a.m.

I sat down with two apprentices to hear about their experience thus far as a part of ARTPrenticeship 2019 program. Kaeleana Ramirez is a rising junior at University High School working with the mural team at the Family Health Center’s Martin Luther King Jr. clinic. Upon completing high school, she plans to attend college on the west coast or in Hawaii to study marine biology. Lillian Olvera is a recent graduate from University High School working with the mural team at Brotherwell Brewing. She plans to continue her education at McLennan Community College to study art.

What made you interested in applying for the ARTPrenticeship program this year?

Kaeleana: I love art! I’ve been taking advanced art classes since middle school. This upcoming year I’m moving up to Pre-AP Art, so when I heard of this program I had to apply.

Lillian: I actually wanted to participate in the program last year, but it didn’t work out. This year I came to the information session about the program at University and decided to apply. This is my first job, so I thought this would be a great opportunity do so something I’m passionate about and gain work experience.

How have you enjoyed working alongside the teaching artists?

K: I’ve definitely enjoyed working alongside the teaching artists.  I knew there were artists in town but I thought they typically focus on creating work that would go in a gallery, not dedicating their time to help teach high school apprentices how to paint murals.

L: This has been a fun experience and it’s cool seeing professional artists in our community. I’m mostly familiar with our art teachers who are professional artists too, but it’s interesting seeing and getting to work with people who are full time artists.

What were some of the goals that you set during the studio sessions for this summer? Do you feel like you’re on track to hit those goals?

K: The main goal was to broaden my horizon. Usually I create small projects like painting on canvases or spray painting, but I wanted to learn more ways to improve on my techniques. I also wanted to work on being less critical of my work. ARTPrenticeship has definitely taught me a lot about the creative process.

L: A few of my goals that I identified were to be able to work with the group full of other creatives, learn how to manage a project of this magnitude from concept to completion, down to how plan out a budget. I’ve definitely learned all of that and more.

Has working on a creative project like ARTPrenticeship impacted the type of working environment or career path you aspire to work in?

K: In general, it’s taught me a lot about working with a group and how to manage working alongside other people’s personalities. Although I don’t plan to go into the creative field, however, there are some creative qualities that will help me be successful.

L: My dream is to open up a studio like Marvel or Disney that focuses on design, animation, and fashion. This program has taught me some invaluable things that would help me create my studio and I’ve met a few people who want to help me attain that goal.

What has been one of the greatest lessons that you will take with you in the future?

K: There’s a lot! Learning how to work as a group, a part of a whole instead of as an individual has been an interesting lesson. We’ve learned how to work in different parts or sections but still communicate different ideas in a professional environment.

L: I’ve learned that it’s ok to make mistakes. You rarely get something right the first time, so sometimes you need to step away then come back with a clear mind. It’s all a part of the creative process.

To learn more about ARTPrenticeship visit us at

Kennedy Sam is the Director of Marketing and Communications for Creative Waco, McLennan County’s arts agency. As a longtime Waco resident, upon receiving her degree from Louisiana State University was excited to return to her hometown to begin her career serving the community she loves. In her spare time, she enjoys rediscovering all that Waco has to offer and exploring the many walking trails with her pup Bleu. 

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.

Getting my yearly dose of Shakespeare… in Waco!

InSite is a “creative placemaking” initiative in Waco, Texas. Creative placemaking uses the arts and design as tools for transforming communities, strengthening local identity, and leading social change.  Right now, they are focusing on theatre production, but they plan to offer arts education programming for kids and adults, and opportunities to get involved in public and pop-up art and other projects!

Their current project is a series of three “Shakespeare Studios.”  Each studio will include a collection of scenes, sonnets, and soliloquies focused on a theme.  The first of these studios “Love and War” will be presented July 16 at Brotherwell Brewing.

In today’s post a local high school student shares her excitement about finding an opportunity to indulge her love of Shakespeare. – ABT  

By Zoë Seagle

I have been acting in Shakespearean plays since I was eight years old. I was a part of a homeschool co-op that performed yearly at the Scarborough Renaissance Festival in Waxahachie. I remember watching the older kids performing their main roles, delivering their monologues, and delving into their characters to the point that they weren’t themselves anymore. I could only dream! I was this very tiny, very homeschooled, terrified kid. The first time someone introduced themselves to me, I screamed and ran behind a couch for protection. (I stayed there, crying, for a good hour.) My director at the time, Tracey Villanueva, swore she would break me out of my shell. I was not pleased with her determination, but I don’t know where I would be if she had not seen through my walls.

You know the cliché poster in the child’s room of their idol? Well, Shakespeare was the guy on my wall. I was fascinated with his work and lifestyle. I mean, he made 2000+ words up and over 30+ plays! That’s creativity at its finest. 

Two years ago, I enrolled in a public high school, and sadly that ended my performances in the Scarborough Fair. Not having my yearly dose of Shakespeare was strange. I searched for a group during those two Shakespeare-dry years that performed or studied Shakespeare plays in Waco, but no such luck. I did manage to find Jubilee Theatre, though, the small, tight-knit group I soon called home. Jubilee’s director, Trent Sutton, blew my mind with his actor-focused plays. It was like nothing I’d ever been a part of before. When he told me about how he was transitioning to InSite, a growing theatre organization taking a huge interest in Shakespeare, I was absolutely thrilled! A group that would give me my yearly dose of Shakespeare and have one of the best directors I’ve ever had? Consider me family!

Since following Trent to Insight, I have met Luann Jennings, the founder of InSite, and Stefanie Wheat-Johnson, who both have very mesmerizing ways of directing. I’m excited to watch InSite grow and become something absolutely amazing for Waco. So, keep an eye out for our productions and spread the word about InSite to your friends and family! Look out Waco, because here we come!

Zoë Seagle is an 11th grade student at Rapoport Academy. She loves to perform, play music, and write when she isn’t at school. She has been singing and acting for many years now, and hopes to continue to do so in the future.

Top 10: Thinking about how Waco would respond to an influx of immigrants

Top 10  “Most Opened” Blog Posts of 2019: # 1

By Grecia Chavira

I am a DACA-mented teacher in Waco.

By that I mean I’m a beneficiary of “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals”, or DACA. This executive action was implemented by the Obama administration in June of 2012. DACA provides protection from deportation and work authorization for young immigrants, often referred to as DREAMers, who have completed high school and arrived in the United States before their sixteenth birthday. This benefit gives me protection, but it often feels like an undeserved privilege.

Lately I’ve felt that my “privilege” didn’t start with DACA, it started when I began my journey as an immigrant into the United States almost 20 years ago. I realize now that the start of my story as an immigrant is starkly different than most.

When I was 8 years old, I arrived in Waco on a charter bus with my family by my side. I didn’t need to cross the desert with a coyote (a human smuggler who leads immigrants across the border illegally). I was never in danger of being raped, trafficked or lost. I wasn’t separated from my parents at the border. I was safe.

I vividly remember arriving to Waco after midnight at a yellow and green gas station. I remember running off the bus and hugging my aunt, who was anxiously awaiting our arrival. During my first year in the States, various family members graciously shared their home with my family. I didn’t live in an overcrowded detention center- I didn’t endure sexual abuse from prison guards. I was safe. I was home.

These memories arise with a sense of guilt as I read recent news of immigrants traveling thousands of miles in search of a safer and better future for themselves and their children. My parents had the same goals, but we were lucky. We were fortunate enough to have family connections, resources and a church community. We were welcomed.  We were not considered a burden or a punishment.

Things couldn’t be more different for the 50,000 immigrants who have been released into San Antonio from December to March after being processed and detained at the border. The influx that occurred at the end of March included about 500 hundred asylum-seeking immigrants arriving in San Antonio. Many of these had traveled from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador fleeing violence, in search of safety.

Thankfully, local non-profit organizations such as American Gateways and Catholic Charities came together to rally around the immigrant families. These groups coordinated hundreds of volunteers who helped the families book tickets to travel to their final destinations or to contact family members.

Recognizing the magnitude of the situation, the city of San Antonio set up a resource center in an empty store to help the local non-profits provide enough food, clothing, and medical services to the immigrant families. City staff provided children books to read while the adults sought out legal services. As an immigrant, my heart hurt for the hardships that my immigrant brothers and sisters suffered in their search for a better life, but my Texan heart beamed with pride as San Antonio stepped up to meet their needs with love and dignity.

As I discussed these events with my good friend and local immigration attorney, Anali Looper, we wondered how Waco would handle high numbers of immigrant arrivals. Would the City step in and help our local non-profits meet their needs? Would churches show love and compassion by opening up their facilities to be used as temporary housing? Would volunteers rally as they did in San Antonio? I would hope so. But hoping isn’t enough.

Living in Waco, Texas, has never felt scary to me. I remember a childhood filled with security and love. I attended Waco public schools, where teachers loved me, motivated me and led me toward success. My teachers advocated for me and broke ground with me as an undocumented Valedictorian at University High School. As a child, I attended a small Hispanic church where I was shown to appreciate my community and to love my neighbor as myself. Now I attend a large multi-cultural church that focuses on missions around the world.

As a Wacoan, I would like to see the City of Waco and the community prepare a contingency plan for treating immigrant families with the same dignity and respect that would be awarded to US Citizen families who have been displaced by floods, hurricanes or fires. I would like for my students, many immigrants or children of immigrants themselves, to learn the value of human life and the power of community. I would like my students and their families to feel safe and loved, just like I did growing up, just like I do now.

I want to have faith that my adoptive hometown would be as welcoming and generous should we have to respond to a situation like San Antonio. I would hope and pray for a similar response, but would it be done?

For more information about American Gateways please refer to the website:

Grecia Chavira is a 2nd grade teacher in Waco ISD. She grew up in Waco and graduated from Baylor University. She always dreamed of being a teacher for English Language Learners. She is a part of the community advisory committee for American Gateway, a local non-profit that provides low-cost immigration legal services. She enjoys working out, practicing yoga and visiting local restaurants with her husband, Enoc.

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.

After School Program in South Waco in need of sponsors for snacks and meals. Can you help?

By Khristian Howard

If you’ve been around Waco for a while, you have probably noticed tons of service opportunities, programs, and projects – and many of these are kid-centered. Right now, the city is sprinkled with summer meal sites ranging from traditional sites like rec centers and schools to mobile meal busses. This summer, Waco ISD even premiered a food truck to serve meals to kids in low-income areas! In the hype, it is easy to see the passion that exists around feeding children. The momentum continues to grow throughout the school year, as after-school enrichment programs pop up on every side of the city. In McLennan County, there are over 14,000 children experiencing food insecurity, so being able to provide a meal for a child is integral in shaping a healthy future for this community (Map the Meal Gap, 2019). Larger organizations like the YMCA and Boys and Girls Clubs have the abundance of resources necessary to provide food for their participants; however, for smaller after-school programs, meeting this need can be more challenging.  

Such is the case for NewLife Alliance, a Christian 501(c)3 organization that “fosters communities of encouragement and empowerment for people of all ages and abilities.” Nationally, NewLife Alliance represents a collection of businesses, community organizations, churches and schools.  Here in Waco, in Red Oak Townhomes (located at 4510 S. Third Street in Waco), the organization functions as an after-school program that provides educational and spiritual enrichment for the children living in this community. We sat down with Jina Jones, Program Coordinator, for Red Oak Townhomes, to talk about the value that the program brings to the community and its children.

Here’s the Scoop…

“There are so many valuable pieces,” Jina shared, “from spiritual studies, to health and nutrition events, to counseling and community safety events, [and even] direct support with toiletries and goods…but I would have to say that the youth program is the most valuable piece.” Being able to reach the youth means everything to this community, and NewLife Alliance serves to meet a serious gap for parents with limited resources. “Providing help with homework, meals, spiritual studies, and character building in a safe environment for our youth is such a huge help to the families that are income challenged and may not be able to pay for the cost of after-school care otherwise,” stated Jina.

Meal and snack sponsors needed

However, the program itself is experiencing a tight limit on resources as well. The previous meal sponsor for NewLife Alliance is no longer able to extend meal services to the part of town where the Red Oak Townhomes are located.  This leaves the program without a way to ensure food for the children who participate. Jina expounded on just how serious the current predicament is for the life of the program and the kids who participate:

“We never truly know the struggle of each family here on the property and whether the meal we provide will be the last meal of their day or maybe just the healthiest meal they receive. Our problem is that because we are a non-profit, we run [out] of donations and sometimes struggle to meet the needs of the families because of lack of donations. Donations mean the world to families in need of help.”

Can you help?

For this reason, we are asking you to consider making a donation of food or money to help Jina and NewLife Alliance continue to feed the children in their programs. Food options range from full, hearty meals to simple snacks, so no contribution is too small.  NewLife Alliance has been serving Red Oak Townhomes in Waco for 14 years, and with your help, the program can continue to meet the needs of children and families there.

Sign Me Up!

So, if you would like to make a donation, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • This program meets three times a week on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays
  • Each week about 20 – 25 kids participate
  • The program coordinator has opted to keep all meals and snacks peanut-free due to severe allergies among the kids

To make a donation or to get more information, please reach out to Jina Jones, NewLife Alliance Program Coordinator in Red Oak Townhomes at, or Khirstian Howard, AmeriCorps VISTA at Texas Hunger Initiative at We truly appreciate your help and support for the community!

Khristian Howard is an Atlanta native and a recent graduate of Georgia State University where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. She has a passion for empowering communities through service, and seeks to connect advocacy to creativity. Currently, she is serving as the AmeriCorps VISTA for Texas Hunger Initiative Waco, where her work focuses on fostering collective impact to improve health and eating habits in East Waco. When she is not working, you may find her sharpening her culinary skills or exploring new poetic and artistic pathways.  

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.


Map the Meal Gap. (2019). Overall and child food insecurity by county in 2017. [Table] Retrieved from!/vizhome/2017StateWorkbook-Public_15568266651950/CountyDetailDataPublic