Karla’s story: how group prenatal care helps prevent 40 weeks of guesswork

By Carlos Hinojosa

Centering Pregnancy is a fairly new concept that seeks to take prenatal care out of the exam room and into a comfortable and communal setting. It blends regular prenatal visits together with support groups of expecting mothers with similar due dates.  Expectant mothers meet for their monthly check-ups, where physicians and nurses facilitate sessions and answer questions that the mothers and their partners have about different aspects of pregnancy.  The goals of Centering Pregnancy are to increase the amount of time providers can spend with their patients, improve birth outcomes, help patients build a community of support, and impart a level of knowledge to the patients so they can best care for themselves.

Karla, one of Family Health Center’s patients, recently went through the program herself.  Karla has been a patient of Family Health Center since she was born. Her care at FHC actually goes back even further.  Her mother was an FHC patient and received her prenatal care here as well, but didn’t experience anything quite like Centering Pregnancy.

When Karla learned she was pregnant, she and her husband were very excited – and a little nervous. There was so much to learn, and neither Karla nor Juan knew quite what to expect. Karla’s doctor talked to her about Family Health Center’s Centering Pregnancy program, and Karla’s mother encouraged her to go.  Karla was glad she did. “It was an open and fun way to learn about what was going on inside of me.” 

Each meeting, participants gathered in the Centering room at FHC, and one by one, mothers-to -be stepped back into a private area to have their vitals checked and measurements taken to track their progress.  After everyone had seen the doctors, the class sessions began.  Resources books were issued, and classes featured different activities corresponding to what was happening at that stage of pregnancy.  Classes also allowed ample time for questions. “I always had questions, but Juan had even more questions than I did,” Karla said. “You could be sure that if you had a question and were afraid to ask, someone else would ask it.”

The group sessions used the activities to help foster conversation, and those conversations helped everyone get to know each other.  Members of each class are encouraged to keep in contact with one another after the classes were over, and Karla has maintained a friendship with one of the members of her group.  “It’s nice to know other people who are going through the same things I am, and it helps to be able to talk to someone else.”

When the time came for Karla to deliver, she felt prepared and confident.  She didn’t feel overly nervous, and she thanks the team at FHC for preparing her so well. “Centering Pregnancy taught me all of the things I needed to know before my daughter arrived.”

Centering Pregnancy is just another tool Family Health Center is using to improve the health of our community and make a difference for the families we serve. When asked her thoughts on the program as a whole, Karla said, “It was so great that I tell all my friends who are pregnant to go! The next time I have a baby, I plan to go again.”


Carlos Hinojosa serves as Development Director for Family Health Center in Waco. He holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree from University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and has been living in Waco for 18 years. When not at work, Carlos loves to spend time with his wife and two sons taking walks, making up silly games, and perfecting the art of dad jokes.

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 ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

Building the school to career pipeline

By Jennifer Branch

Talent. It is the top need of employers across the country. Texas and Waco are no exceptions, especially with historically low unemployment rates.

As the “baby boomer” generation continues to age and exit the workforce, employers are becoming more and more desperate for adequately trained workers. The growth of a competitive economy and rapid advances in technology have changed the face of the job market and we as a community must answer.

The Heart of Texas P-20 Council is a school-to-work initiative that builds pathways from education to workplace to provide a skilled workforce. Our mission is to create collaborative partnerships that connect students to both college and career readiness. The council has historically had a strong presence of collaboration from educators, but the missing link remained – industry feedback.

My work with the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce has been incredible. I have the pleasure of sitting down face-to-face with local employers throughout McLennan County and learning more about their businesses and the dreams and passions that led them to their line of work. I am often invited to celebrate successes, but I am also challenged with partnering with businesses to overcome issues they are facing. Ninety-five percent of the time, the greatest challenge our local businesses face is recruiting and maintaining Talent and Workforce. They often face growth restraints due to the lack of qualified workers. Markets are hot, products and services are in demand, but businesses simply cannot accommodate all requests because they do not have capacity. If they had the qualified, trained employees they need, they could more closely meet the demands.

The feedback from my visits is aggregated and collectively shared with educators, curriculum planners and community leaders. Allowing the first-hand transfer of information about the specific skills and needs the employers are looking for has helped the P-20 Council’s overall local mission and commitment as well as supported the state’s 60×30 strategic plan for preparing students for the workforce. The newly launched Talent Portal www.WacoTXJobs.com and the ongoing, strategic relationship with the US Army’s Fort Hood Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program are other examples of workforce initiatives I focus on as well as continuing to support our local industry and community partners.

One thing that I have seen that is most encouraging and fascinates other economic developers is the collaborations within our community. Waco has brought to the table City and County officials, regional early-ed public and private schools, leaders from TSTC, Baylor University, McLennan Community College, Texas Tech University at Waco, Tarleton State University – Waco, Workforce Development Boards and other community and industry leaders, literally all focused on the same end goal.

While change certainly is underway in our community to develop a robust talent pipeline for employers and to give job seekers more and clearer options and career pathways, we must continue to collaborate and push for continued change. A healthy economy and job market lead to healthy communities, which lead to healthy businesses and healthy families. The bottom line is that there is no growth without talent. Partnerships that nurture, grow and diversify the talent pipeline are vital and partners in McLennan County should be proud of the work started.

Jennifer Branch serves as the Director of Existing Industries and Workforce Development on the Economic Development Team at the Greater Waco Chamber. She is also on the Workforce Development Board as the Co-Chair for the Texas Economic Development Council. She relocated from Dallas to Waco 10 years ago and is settled in China Spring with her two daughters. In her “free” time she enjoys all things outdoors, especially on the lake or one of the rivers flowing through our city center. Along with being an ambassador for our community, she is also an active advocate for many non-profits for which she has a passion.

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 ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

Data makes a difference: Community Health Needs Assessment helps us build a healthier Waco

By Brittany Fitz-Chapman

After over a year of planning, surveying, and understanding, the 2018-2019 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) for Waco-McLennan County is complete and ready to use. Now, I can hear everyone taking a collective sigh as another person from Prosper Waco talks about the importance of data…again. However, the way our community collectively comes together to understand the growing health needs of all residents is unique and should be celebrated.

Since early last year, members of the cross-organizational CHNA task force have met on a regular basis to discuss the specifics of the survey conducted every three years. The goal of the CHNA is to provide a comprehensive and unbiased profile of McLennan County, assess community health and risk factors, and identify access to care issues. Because our community is a part of the City Health Dashboard project, the group concentrated on collecting information beyond just descriptive characteristics like an individual’s height and weight.

This year’s CHNA focused on collecting information that is actionable by the various organizations, coalitions, and workgroups working to improve the health outcomes of residents of McLennan County. This means that every piece of information collected will be used to improve the health outcomes in our community. Having this data allows targeted action plans to be created to make the largest impact possible.

For example, the study found that more than 20% of respondents in Waco-McLennan County do no physical activity during a typical week.  We also know anecdotally that there are limitations to how and when individuals find time to exercise. With this information in hand, one of our working groups, “Live Well Waco” is taking up that cause through their Worksite Wellness Program.  In partnership with the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District, Live Well Waco is working to identify and recognize local organizations and businesses who take steps to improve the health of their employees. This program is just one piece of the puzzle, but helping employers understand the importance of a healthy workforce and helping employees get active goes a long way in our community’s overall well-being.

This result and others will continue to stimulate discussion and planning of projects to address identified health needs. Balancing the data collected with first-hand knowledge and experience will yield the best results for our community. Previous assessments have resulted in targeted health promotions and have supported numerous grant opportunities for the community.

Various community organizations participated in a taskforce to help develop the assessment including Baylor Scott White Medical Center-Hillcrest, Family Health Center, Heart of Texas Mental Health Mental Retardation, Heart of Texas Regional Advisory Council, McLennan County, Prosper Waco, Ascension Providence, and Waco-McLennan County Public Health District.

The CHNA was funded through a collaboration among the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District, Ascension Providence, Baylor Scott & White Health Medical Center-Hillcrest, Family Health Center, Prosper Waco, and Baylor University’s Center for Community Research and Development.

You can find a copy of the full report on Prosper Waco’s “Research” page or visit the pages of one of our partners. And as always, if you have any questions about the report or the data, please reach out to me at Brittany@prosperwaco.org.


Brittany Fitz-Chapman works at Prosper Waco as the Director of Data and Research. She is a graduate of Baylor University.  She holds two master’s degrees and is pursuing her PhD in Sociology at Baylor. She has engaged in community research in Waco and has published professional articles about what makes communities strong. She enjoys exploring Waco with her husband and their two puppies!

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 ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

Top 10: A letter from a First Generation Mexican Immigrant, Naturalized Citizen, US Patriot

Top 10  “Most Opened” Blog Posts of 2019: # 3

By Reyna Reyes

I was always that kid.  The one who was in everything, or at least tried to be.  I guess it’s always been that way with me.  I’ve always been very passionate and 100 percent all in.

My parents brought me here to the US in 1979, I was a 3- year old toddler.  Early on into my pre-teens, we visited Mexico often.

I always knew to prepare because the walls at my grandparents were see-through, dirt blew everywhere, with dirt floors, a random concrete slab, no electricity, no running water, and no bathroom.  Still is the same today.

It was always amazing to me how a family of 8 could cramp into one room with a couple of mattresses on the dirt floor and manage to cook and eat outside in the elements.

We stopped going as frequently as crime with the cartels increased and it was no longer safe for us to go to “la frontera.”

I would hear my uncles talk about the dangers the family faced and how us visiting there could make it a greater risk for them.

Ten years ago, my husband and I were quickly ushered back by family across the US border when we attempted to go to my cousin’s funeral in Mexico.  We were warned by family that tensions were high, and we would be at risk for danger.

My grandfather passed away and we were advised to stay away.

My uncle passed away and more of the same.

Over the years, my family, like many others, has suffered loss due to the crime that has gone on unchecked at la frontera.  Daily living is sometimes near impossible without becoming a casualty of the war on the streets.

Bloodied bodies across the front page of the local paper serve as notice to families, including mine.

I am so grateful my parents immigrated to the US.  And while there is definitely a desperation in Mexico and further South, and a very real humanitarian crisis at the border; most Mexicans can appreciate the efforts of the US administration to keep this country safe.

My cousin, a professor at a school in Mexico expressed to me how they wish their leaders would do the same on their behalf.

Personally, growing up in the US as a Mexican immigrant, I was often stereotyped and racially attacked.

I was called a wetback and was often bullied in school because of it. 

It could have been because I was that girl who wore the folclórico dresses and sang the Tejano songs with a conjunto band and the Mariachi Band at school.

It didn’t help that most of my friends were teachers and administrators, and I often sold tamales to them to help mom with money.

As a result, I was often pushed around and ridiculed.

But it wasn’t by who you may suspect.

It wasn’t those “racist white people” who hated Mexicans as I often hear about today…I didn’t meet any of those people and didn’t really hear about them back then that I can remember.

No.  My attackers were the very same Latino kids who are now adults who continue to do the very same thing to folks, including me; except using today’s platform that is now social media.

I was very recently publicly stereotyped and attacked.  I was called an ignorant whitewashed entitled chicana by an immigrant advocate.

A community member mocks me with memes and uses bullying tactics online to try and intimidate me, as recently as today.

I think it to be completely ironic.

It takes me back to those days in middle school and high school when we often had little to eat, no electricity or running water, and were often on the verge of being evicted; dealing with an alcoholic for a father, protecting my younger brother from seeing his state, dealing with my epilepsy (We didn’t always have the money for the meds or specialist visits, not to mention money for a translator and transportation), and still working to keep my grades up in school to ensure my mother’s sacrifice did not go in vain.

As a conservative Latina, I am often accused of being a traitor.

If leaving my home country to make a better life here is being a traitor, then maybe I am. Although I didn’t choose my path as a child, I guess I could have returned to Mexico to make it work.

If I’m a traitor because I didn’t go back to fight so that the Mexican government would do for its citizens as it should, then maybe I am.  I guess it depends on how you define it.

But if that is why I am a traitor, then would it make hundreds of thousands of Mexican immigrants traitors because they didn’t stay to fight the corruption in their homelands?

No.  Of course we are not traitors.  No matter where we stand politically.  We have all fled and continue to flee countries who have cared little for their own citizens.

We are here because the US government’s structure allows for freedom and opportunities.

I was naturalized very recently as a US Citizen and I am scheduled to attend a swearing in ceremony in a couple of months.  I couldn’t be more excited.

Let us stop attacking the leaders of this great nation.  Let us stop playing into the media for ratings and politicians for the vote.

Instead, let us join forces to focus on immigration reform and raise money to help manage the efforts at the border and help organizations that are on the front lines working to help families reunite.

Let’s join forces to raise money to cover attorney fees and legal processes for those seeking asylum and a path to citizenship.

Let us raise money to send US ambassadors to Mexico to work on a solution to address the root cause of the crisis.

Let’s work together to address this very real crisis affecting very real families.  Some who may be our very own.


Reyna Reyes is a 40-year Wacoan. She is a first generation Mexican immigrant and a first generation high school graduate. She is a Licensed Vocational Nurse with an Associate’s degree from McLennan Community College and a Bachelor Degree from Tarleton State University in Business Management. She co-chaired Care Net Waco’s very first Style Show fundraiser last year featuring Care Net moms and their children, an organization very near and dear to her heart.

She is a not-so-anonymous shopaholic who loves to shop the locals and encourage her social media followers to do the same. She is 22 years married to her amazing husband, Joshua and they have a 10-year old son, Jordan.  They enjoy watching Baylor Football and Lady Bears Basketball together.

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 ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.