College Insights: Internships Open Doors

By Dasjaevian Dixon

Searching for a job or an internship can be a tedious process. But researching and making genuine connections can help to ease that process. Last year, I utilized Eagle Network as a vital resource to find the Disney College Program internship, which is available for all students at the University of North Texas.

Eagle Network is an excellent resource for finding jobs, internships, and shadowing opportunities. After I found out about the Disney College Program, I researched the company and what it has to offer – not only to potential employees but for the millions of guests from all over the world who visit Walt Disney World annually. My excitement began once I learned that Disney was a Fortune 500 company that places great emphasis on guest satisfaction and opens doors for its interns’ occupational growth. After reading these descriptions, I knew the company would be a great fit for me.

I followed up with Disney’s recruitment team after applying to make sure an interview was secured. The interview lasted about 20 minutes. I was excited about the big break afterwards, but nervous regarding what to expect. After the over-the-phone interview, I sent a follow-up email expressing how thankful I was to even have the chance to be interviewed by a Disney recruiter.

I highly encourage all students to take advantage of resources offered from your school. Every interview will not be great. Every job you apply for will not be handed to you. However, you must stay persistent. Keep putting forth an effort to build and gain employment skills that will be vital to your eventual career of choice.

A great tool I would recommend in helping your job/internship search is LinkedIn. This unique social network for employers can mark the difference between an overlooked candidate and potential hire. I recommend using LinkedIn to reach out to as many professionals as possible.

My internship was a great learning experience overall, as well as a lot of fun. At the same time, I began it with several challenges – some of which came from simply adjusting to it. But that’s a part of every process, right?

It was difficult adjusting financially and physically when I arrived in Orlando, Florida, in April. It was also challenging to maintain a new schedule.  Plus, I only had  $300 dollars to my name. I had to use Uber numerous times to get around until I found someone who could provide transportation. Although most of my destinations were nearby, the money I spent on Uber accumulated quickly.

My normal routine consisted of attending classes, working, exercising, and socializing. That didn’t work out so well for the first 6 weeks of the internship. Before I knew it, I was working about 45 hours a week while taking 2 online classes through UNT. I couldn’t work out or socialize as much as I wanted to.

Working 6 days a week for about 2 months made me embrace time management more than I ever have. As much as it made me find a balance, it motivated me to improve my health to endure the long work days. I started cooking breakfast every morning and taking vitamins which helped tremendously. In return, I could get through the week without being so fatigued.

One thing I really looked forward to was volunteering alongside the Make-A-Wish Foundation as a wish granter. I knew Disney had a close partnership with the foundation, and I wanted to utilize that as a way to give back to the community.

Before passing away in July of 2007, my younger sister made a wish to attend a Ne-Yo concert while recovering from our bone marrow transplant. Her immune system was not strong enough for traveling, so Make-A-Wish made a way for her to attend a WWE event in San Antonio, Texas instead. She had the time of her life meeting some of her favorite wrestlers – especially her favorite, John Cena. He currently grants many wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions.

I had my own chances to help grant wishes for 2 children in the Orlando area – in May and June respectively. Both of the families I interacted with were genuinely happy that their child would do something fun to aid them through challenging turmoil. Fortunately, I left both families’ homes feeling like I was a part of their units. It has been a wonderful experience being a part of the world’s largest wish granting organization. I look forward to continuing to serve in the North Texas region.

I’ve developed genuine relationships with people worldwide. Interacting and learning about different cultures with the international students I worked with was a blast. It strengthened my comprehension of how to communicate and made me eager to visit different countries.

At work, I was able to network with many people from different backgrounds. I did my best in making sure that guests felt comfortable and welcomed whenever they visited our store. I had the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations that I will remember for the rest of my life. Throughout my internship, I interacted with thousands of guests and I am now more comfortable when speaking to large audiences or individuals that I’m meeting for the first time.

As a young professional, I’ve sharpened valuable skills which make me an important asset in the business field. Some of those skills include being personable, practicing effective communication, identifying problems, and providing ample solutions. Now, I can find a perfect balance between hard work and participating in extracurricular activities.

Most importantly, I still enjoyed the recreational activities Walt Disney World offered. On my off days, I visited theme parks and traveled around Florida. Being in this enlightening atmosphere every day has inspired me to continue working hard and enjoying the treasures of life. I am beyond thankful for this opportunity and experience. Thank you and best regards to everyone who continues supporting and encouraging me on this formative professional journey.

Dasjaevian Dixon is an undergraduate student at the University of North Texas studying Marketing with a double minor in Decision Sciences and Psychology. He is currently interning at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Dasjaevian is a Brazos Education Foundation scholar. He currently serves as the Vice President for The Presidential Men, an organization he helped implement at UNT. He also assists with helping grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Owning his own business in the future is one of his top goals. As a millennial, he is building on his personal and professional skills to become a valuable asset in the business field.

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.


Tami’s Big Do Over: 21 Questions – Mostly Why?

(Tami Nutall Jefferson, a married mother and grandmother, is going back to school and she has invited us all along to enjoy the ride.  For more posts in this series, click here: Tami’s Big Do Over.  – ABT )

By Tami Nutall Jefferson

Whether you’re reciting the opening of Hamlet’s soliloquy – “to be or not to be” – or humming Black Sheep’s hook inside your head – “you can get with this or you can get with that” – the bottom line always comes down to ‘WHY?”

Why is being this better than being that? Why is doing this better than doing that? For me, the “why” was “why go back to college, at all, at this point in my life?”

Flashback — It’s Me

Last year, I read an article about this 50-something year old person who spent their lifetime transforming themselves from a man into a woman. In the end, they were ravaged emotionally and physically and a shell of their real self. The one thing they lamented was how, throughout their whole journey, no one had ever asked them why they were doing what they were doing. All he/she got was support.

In preparing for this conversation with you this month, I realized I, too, have been that person. The person that everyone trusted to make her own best choices. Everyone I knew, pretty much always supported me. No one ever really questioned or challenged me or my “why.” I always thought it was a blessing. Now I’m reconsidering.

Unlike ever before, when it comes to going back to school, everyone has started asking me “Why?”  Almost all of my friends and business associates – even my own husband – everyone is asking me “why?”

I have been answering the incessant “why” question for the last 6 months. For the first time in my life, I have to defend my “why.”  It was easy to defend it to myself in February when I first asked myself the question. “Because this is what I’ve always wanted to do and because this is what I came back to Texas in 2011 to do. So I’m doing it.” But on the other side of 30, you somehow loose the privilege of having “I don’t know” and “Because I want to” as your reasons “why” for doing almost anything.

No One Wants a Weak Why

I have invested over a hundred hours the last few months going through my old journals and goals lists, the TAMU course catalog and syllabi, professor CVs, advertised industry job descriptions, and the like. I have accumulated a paper ream of goals and plans written out over the years that all pretty much say the same three or four things. All of this, to get to my “why.” Through the practice of researching my ‘Why?’ I went even farther and took time to research the objects of my affection. It’s one thing to really want something or whatever your “why” is. It’s a whole other thing to really count the cost of being, doing, and having that thing. You might find that your “why” is not strong enough to withstand the test of living and – in Silicon Valley terms – you might have to pivot.

Tami’s Choice

I planned on studying real estate development, urban planning, AND economic development and having a career doing all three. I began to ask myself, “In light of the fact that I can only take a limited number of elective credits, why do I REALLY want to take each of these subject matters instead of focusing on one specific one? Furthermore, what does each job truly entail?”

I read at least 50 job listings and resumes for these professions, as well as their respective trade associations and certification webpages. Conclusion – These are three completely different jobs with three completely different skill sets done by three completely different types of people. I’m only one of me! I can’t effectively do them all. I have to choose. So how do you choose? My life experience tells me if I go with choice B or C, then I’m always going be to distracted from my work and trying to figure out how I can jump the fence to choice A. I don’t have another 20 years to chase choices B, C, D, or Z. My time is now – or never, to be totally honest with myself. Researching and answering this hard “why” question has set me on a more attainable path with regard to my major and minor courses, my capital, my professional relationships, business endeavors, and so on. I essentially saved myself thousands of wasted hours and dollars, and secured my future Level 10 happiness. I pivoted – and it was okay. It was actually empowering. And my resolute “WHY” grew just a little bit more.

It’s The Big One

That’s great. But that still leaves the big WHY? unanswered. Why go to college in the first place? Every student has to answer this question – whether they’re 17 or 70. Often we ask it of ourselves as we’re pouring over some inane text at 2:00 am. This is where the “21 reasons why” come rolling out of my mouth. My “whys”  range from the technical – learning more so I can earn more, to the passionate – my childhood dream, to the practical – I don’t want to be dumbed out of the future workforce. But as I look at them, there is no one Big Why. My “why” is like a pie, it takes many pieces to make up a whole one. There is no perfect blanket answer that will appease every asker. But if I know anything about life, it’s that any one of my 21”whys” will smack me square in the face when I’m faced with its opposition. Like a time, when I see the perfect job posting with educational requirements. Or if I should travel to Greece and see the hotelier’s TAMU degree on their office wall. Or when…

No matter what the occasion, audience, or location, my “why” has to be resolute, well-researched, and able to stand up to the caring people who ask and the dissident people who oppose it. That is something you don’t learn when everyone in your life, for your whole life, just blindly supports you without ever sincerely questioning you. That is something I’m learning now, and it’s something that I know will make me a strong leader.

And The Beat Goes On

I’ve been struggling all day with how to wrap this up in a nice, little bow. A well-versed conclusion. And I finally realize, as deadline approaches fast, there is no conclusion. This is the beginning. I’m only at the beginning of learning my “whys” and having them be real to me. I have 5 semesters to go and I’m excited to see what “whys” they will bring up. Especially that first semester. So until next time…

Tami Nutall Jefferson has over a decade of experience in real estate sales and management and currently works as a home and building designer. This Fall she will begin her first academic year at Texas A&M University pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Urban Planning and Real Estate Development while commuting between Waco and College Station. Her hope is that Waco becomes the most attractive, modern, vibrant, and prosperous version of itself as an inclusive city and her professional mission is to help make that happen. Tami is also a 2017 graduate of the Leadership Plenty Institute and volunteers her time and voice to many downtown Waco placemaking and economic development causes and organizations.

To engage and share your non-traditional student experiences with Tami, contact her at or connect with her on Facebook


5 Tips to Increase Mental Health at School

by Carrie Arroyo

Summer is my time to relax, eat too much ice cream, run through the sprinkler in the front yard with my kids, and watch the hummingbirds eat from our Turk’s Cap off the front porch.  But because I work on a school calendar schedule and have 3 youngsters who will all be in school this fall, it is impossible to escape the inevitable hanging over our heads: school is only 1 month away!  Sorry to bring it up and crush your dreams of endless fire fly chasing at dusk, but I do have some suggestions that will help ease the transition back in to school and contribute to a successful school year for kids, families, and teachers alike.

We would love to silo academic success as only being influenced by the amount of study time, quality of textbooks and teaching skills, and intellectual capacity.  But the reality is that it is also directly influenced by our physical, mental, and social well-being.  Our mental wellness is a key component to achieving academically.  Wellness requires the active pursuit of health instead of treatment of illness.  When we build wellness practices in to our lives, we are building up our reservoir of mental resources so that when stressful and challenging times hit, we have an ample supply of mental energy and flexibility to withstand added demands.  Mental wellness also helps us to flourish in our daily lives.  And if we want our children to succeed and flourish in school, there are few things we can do to help them pursue mental wellness. (flower)

5 Tips for Increasing Mental Wellness at School

1. Focus on learning over perfection.  My 9-year-old is wired in such a way that he hates to try something new unless he is 100% sure he is going to be able to master it quickly.  One of the first times this became obvious was when he was learning to tie his shoes when he was 4.  In an effort to get him to persist in this new and challenging task, we mandated mistake-making.  He was required to make at least 5 mistakes and we celebrated wildly with claps, cheers, and dance parties every time he messed up.  This made him laugh and loosen up and be willing to keep trying (and keep messing up) until he mastered the task. The focus in school performance too easily becomes the grade that comes home on the paper or report card.  Instead of rewarding or punishing the grade, focus on rewarding and reinforcing the learning.  We need to cultivate this culture and build in an expectation of curiosity and experimentation that feeds creativity.  Kids need to know that they are safe to make mistakes and that the classroom and their families will still accept them and appreciate them for what they bring to the learning process.

2. Connection, Belonging and Trust.  As much as teachers would like to think it’s true, very few students wake up excited to go to school in order to learn a new algebra equation.  When I ask my kids about their most memorable moments of the school day, they usually center around an interpersonal interaction.  Whether it was a game they played on the playground with friends or a hug they received from their teacher, they feel energized by points of connection throughout the day.  These moments of attention to who they are as individuals and appreciation of their presence, are little deposits in to the mental wellness bank.  And when they are feeling positive about themselves and their school environment, their ability to learn that new math fact increases exponentially.


Picture of my son Ezekiel and his Kindergarten teacher Mrs. Draper on the first (left) and last (right) day of school in 1st grade. From fear and apprehension, to love, acceptance, and success!

3. Be Proactive and Limit Surprises.  I love a good surprise.  One of my biggest pet peeves is someone telling me the ending of a book or movie before I have had the chance to experience it myself.  However, there are some situations where limiting surprises can help our minds, hearts, and spirits to thrive; and school is one of these situations.  For families, be proactive and visit your child’s school ahead of time: meet key people, find the cafeteria and bathrooms, walk your class schedule before bells are ringing and other people are bumping in to you.  For schools, minimize complications for families and students: have clear signs and make sure procedures are easy to find and follow.  Streamline things as much as possible.  Clear and consistent communication helps to clear up a multitude of misunderstandings and can make the school environment much more inviting to students and families.  So caregivers, don’t stop surprising kids with unexpected notes of encouragement in their lunch boxes such as “Good luck on your science test” or “I hope you have a great day” and teachers, don’t stop giving the surprise gift of dropping the lowest test grade at the end of the grading period, but also make sure you give plenty of information and guidance up front to demystify the experience.

4. Routine helps children’s brains navigate the world.  As they experience new things, their brains sort the information, assimilate it in to their thinking process, and adapt and grow as they learn new things.  Providing structure to a child’s day helps them to thrive. This starts at home before they come to school with adequate sleep, a good morning greeting, and a hug before they walk out the door.  Building in routines that give attention to physical needs is also directly tied to mental wellness.  Kids need to eat well, be sufficiently hydrated, and get some exercise.  Moving the body can do wonders for opening up the mind and being ready to learn.  Building brain breaks in to the routine keeps the mind flexible and responsive to the learning environment.

5. Focus on what works.  The ‘power of positive thinking’ is not just an old phrase; it is actually helpful to build up our mental wellness.  Our brains tend to repeat the things that we focus on the most.  If we are constantly focusing on what a child has done wrong and giving attention to it, it is actually more likely to increase.  Telling kids what we want to see and encouraging positive behaviors increases the likelihood of positive behavior and habits.  When something goes wrong, offer the child the opportunity to redo a mistake.  I know this can be hard for those of us who grew up thinking the best way to train a child is to be hard and strict with more of a “get it right the first time or else” approach.  But what we know from research is that we remember what we do – whether that is doing it wrong or right.  Take the time to give a child the opportunity to redo an action they originally got wrong so that their motor memory can store the right way to do it.  It will increase the likelihood that they will get it right the next time.  Yes, it takes time, but is time well spent.  And at the end of it, the adult and child are both celebrating a success rather than fuming over a mistake.  This builds a more connected and collaborative relationship by increasing positive thoughts and feelings.

Carrie Arroyo works hard as a Lecturer in the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work at Baylor University where she teaches soon-to-be social workers and coordinates the BEAR (Be Emotionally Aware and Responsive) Project with Waco ISD.  She also plays hard as a mom of 3 energetic kids: Jonas (9), Ezekiel (7) and Eden (4) and wife to Fernando in their North Waco neighborhood.


I love Heroes

By Rachel E. Pate

2017 has seen a summer filled with action-packed heroic blockbusters.  From Wonder Woman and Spiderman to the Justice League and Guardians of the Galaxy, there’s a big screen hero for each one of us.  I recently watched the new Power Rangers movie and was transported back to my childhood, embracing every character and rooting for the heroes.  There was one scene, however, that despite all the movie majesty just didn’t play to my adult sensibilities.

Spoiler alert…

It’s the scene in which Billy, the quirky super-smart blue ranger, was tragically drowned by the evil villainess Rita – who, by the way, was quite a bit more fierce than her predecessor on the original television show. The remaining rangers pulled his lifeless body from the water; they laid him on his back and looked on hopelessly at his motionless frame.  That’s when the “adult alarm” sounded in my head, and I immediately questioned why no one attempted to perform CPR on Billy.  This sad situation in the movie was eventually rectified by their great and mighty mentor Zordon, but real-life heroes have only seconds to think and react.  The first responders of the community, our firefighters, law enforcement and emergency medical personnel, save lives daily with sometimes only moments to spare.

On Saturday, July 8th between the early morning hours of 3 a.m. and 4 a.m., an unnamed hero sprang into action to save a fellow citizen.  Curtis Jefferson of Rockford, IL, was staying at a Waco-area hotel and was headed through the lobby when he said he witnessed two patrons, a man on crutches and a woman, administering CPR to the front desk attendant.  The manager had suffered an apparent heart attack while assisting the customers and the gentleman on the crutches leapt over the desk to perform life-saving measures.  The two patrons were able to provide aid to the hotel employee until the ambulance and paramedics arrived.  In Mr. Jefferson’s words, “The (male) patron saved his life by performing CPR.”  It was in speaking with the female patron afterwards that Mr. Jefferson learned that the mysterious man on crutches was in fact a trained first responder, a firefighter paramedic, and he’d vanished after all the commotion died down without any hoopla or cheering fans.  He simply did what needed to be done and moved on.

There are tons of local heroes who suit up daily to battle real world crises; burning blazes, horrific accidents, medical emergencies and more.  Often times, their stories go unannounced and these heroes return home after work to manage their lives as ordinary citizens.  They deserve our support and thanks.

They are due our appreciation for their willingness to answer the call whether on-duty or off.

They are actually due much more than our gratitude, but we can offer at least that.  The Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce will host its first We Say Thanks- First Responder Appreciation Event on Tuesday, July 25th from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Hilton Home2 Suites located at 2500 Bagby Avenue in Waco.  The event will feature local first responders and include networking and catered refreshments.

Rachel E. Pate is a native Wacoan and 1999 graduate of University High School.  She currently works as the Public Relations person for the Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce and serves as Coordinator for the Esther’s Closet program for women.  She’s also a proud mom of one, lifelong member of Toliver Chapel (TCMBC) Church, lover of the great outdoors, avid sports fan and dedicated wearer of Converse’s Chuck Taylor shoes.

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.