Juneteenth 2018 Reflection: Because of them…we can!

(Most Texans probably know the history of Juneteenth, but just in case there are a few folks out there who don’t know how this holiday started… On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation ending slavery in the United States, but that message did not reach Texas until more than two years later…on June 19, 1865.  That day became known as “Freedom Day” or “Emancipation Day” – but most people call it “Juneteenth.”   It is an official state holiday in Texas. Waco celebrated Juneteenth last weekend (June 15, 16, 17) with numerous activities including the first ever Mr. and Miss Juneteenth Scholarship Pageant.  Ashley Royal chaired the pageant and played an important role in helping to organize and implement many of the other events.  This is her reflection on the weekend.  Thanks for writing, Ashley! – ALW)

By Ashley Royal

Juneteenth is a Holiday that is not talked about much. Many people have no clue what Juneteenth is.  Generations that have come along after mine don’t know of the significance of the day, or what we are celebrating; they just know it’s time for the parade and celebration. That really bothered me. I found myself wanting to educate the youth more on the history of Juneteenth, and so I made it my mission.

I wanted the 2018 Juneteenth Weekend to be the biggest celebration Waco has ever seen.  This desire  birthed the vision of a three-day Juneteenth Celebration that would educate, uplift, empower and unify the community of Waco.

Friday night, June 15th was a monumental night for me. I had the privilege of chairing the Inaugural Mr. & Miss Juneteenth Scholarship Pageant hosted by FootPrintz Dance Company and sponsored by Creative Waco, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., The Waco Hippodrome, and Empowerment Driven by Knowledge Coalition (EDKC).  We began work on this event three months ago, and at the pageant we celebrated six phenomenal McLennan County High School Students:

  • Isaiah Montgomery, Junior from Robinson High School
  • Naomi McCullough, Junior from University High School
  • Darrell Sauls, Jr. 2018 Graduate of University High School
  • Sha’Queveon Ward, 2018 Graduate of University High School
  • Cameron Henry, Graduate of LaVega High School,
  • and Rachel McCullough, Graduate of University High School.

These six amazing young men and women showed off their talents, knowledge of Waco African-American history, and their style as they modeled casual wear and formal wear.  We even had a special guest, Dr. Linda Livingston from Baylor University, come and deliver a powerful message to the youth about the importance of higher education.

I was so proud Friday night! It was an honor to be among some of the finest people in Waco. And, it was such an honor and privilege to be able plant a seed into six young people and three months later see them bloom.  The winners received $1,000.00 each, 1st runners up $650.00 each, and 2nd runners up $350.00 each!  Everyone was a winner Friday night and it was an amazing site to see. Not only did they get scholarship money, but throughout the planning for the pageant they participated in training courses about topics such as Financial Aid, interviewing, and professional dress. I really wanted to give them tools they could use in the real world.  I am proud to say that with the help of many community partners we were able to do just that. That was the biggest event of my life!

Saturday we unified! We started off with with the Amazing Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce Juneteenth Parade marching down Historic Elm Avenue. It was probably one of the biggest Waco Juneteenth parades I have ever seen. The Juneteenth Parade is always a blast, and I think the fact that we gather and march as one in unity celebrating the broken chains speaks volumes.

We continued our celebration in Brazos Park East at the Juneteenth Family Fun Day Celebration sponsored by EDKC, 94.5 The Beat, Allen Samuels and a host of other local sponsors. We had the reading of the Proclamation, tons of live entertainment, the Mega Kids Zone, all sorts of vendors, food, clothes, jewelry… you name it we had it! The big headliner Dru Hill put on a remarkable concert which closed out our Saturday.

Sunday was the finale! The Father’s Day Gospel Blowout Sponsored by Creative Waco and EDKC. We lifted the name of the Lord in song and dance at the Second Missionary Baptist Church of Waco.  In attendance we had the Waco Community Choir, the Silent Saints of SMBC, Kupira Marimba, the Levites and more… and that was just the warm up! Headliner Myron Butler took the stage and completely put Juneteenth weekend over the top! It was the perfect ending to a phenomenal weekend.

I have always been proud of my culture and how far we as a people have come, but this Juneteenth Weekend I was proud of Waco!  I felt the support of the community this entire journey and it was such a great feeling.  This Juneteenth weekend I not only celebrated freedom, but I got to walk in purpose, leave my footprint, and make change.  I even got to kick off  an annual event, the pageant, that will start every Juneteenth weekend in Waco moving forward. The 2018 Juneteenth weekend was a success in my eyes. We accomplished so much in those three days which I hope will set a path for us to continue moving forward in the future.

This weekend we displayed excellence and proof that because of them… we can.

Ashley Royal is the owner and director of FootPrintz Dance Company. She is a servant of the community of Waco.  Ashley’s mission is to promote high self-esteem, build character and help develop leadership skills in young people through the art of dance and community service. Ashley serves on the Board of Directors for The Youth Connection of Waco, she is a volunteer at Mission Waco, teaching the Hip Hop Dance Class and is also volunteers as a Pee Wee cheer coach for the Waco United League.  Ashley works full time for the Daniel Stark Law Firm as a Pre- Litigation case manager.  Through the service in the community Ashley hopes to build relationships that will lead to a stronger and better developed East Waco.




Urban REAP is reaping benefits!

By Katie Schaeffer

On Aug 22nd 2017, Mission Waco celebrated the grand opening of Urban REAP (Renewable Energy Agriculture project).  It was the culmination of a dream to create a place that would grow food for the North Waco neighborhood in a sustainable way, which emphasizes and teaches “creation care”.  Urban REAP has an aquaponics greenhouse, run by the energy collected from 36 solar panels, and filled with water from a 3,000 gallon rain water collection tank.  It also has an industrial composter, demonstration beds and garden plant sales area.  The project was funded by a large grant from Green Mountain Energy’s Sun club, as well as the Seth Dorrell Memorial Fund and private donations.  Since the Grand Opening, we have been busy growing produce, collecting food waste, growing plants from seed, giving tours to schools, businesses and individuals, building relationships with our neighbors, and learning so much about how to run each of the many components that compose Urban REAP.  It’s been an exciting and exhausting year.  As with any new venture, we have had successes and set-backs.  Below are some of the highlights of the last year for each component.

Our aquaponics system has done very well growing produce this year.  It can grow between 1,400-1,500 plants at a time on floating trays in nutrient rich water which is derived from fish waste that circulates throughout our system.  We used around 300 Hybrid Striped Bass in our system this year.  The system is able to grow a large variety of plants, but we chose to focus on Kale, Swiss Chard, Basil, Collard and Mustard Greens, Parsley, Cilantro, lettuce and tomatoes. We primarily sell our produce next door at the Jubilee Food Market, and across the street at both Mission Waco’s World Cup Café and D’s Mediterranean Grill.  One of the coolest parts of having an urban farm right next to a grocery store and 2 restaurants is that we don’t have to pack up our produce and drive it somewhere.  We just harvest it and minutes later, walk it over.  It doesn’t get much fresher than that, and our carbon footprint is zero!!  This year we are hoping to add a few more local restaurants as regular customers to help sustain what we do. It will probably require using a vehicle, but hopefully for only 5 minutes!  Our aquaponics system not only provides produce, but also up to 500lbs of fish and 720lbs of crawfish annually. Unfortunately, one of our big setbacks this year was that we lost our fish during a power outage in December.  So we have not been able to harvest any fish out of the system yet, and have had to delay the adding of the crawfish. We got a back up generator in January, and were able to replace the fish.  The Crawfish should be added by early October.  Looking forward to our first fish and crawfish harvest in our second year of operation!!

Another component at Urban Reap is our industrial composter, which is designed for facilities that throw away a lot of food, such as grocery stores, restaurants, cafeterias, hotels, etc.  The composter can take 150-180lbs of food waste a day, and in 24 hours, turn it into highly concentrated fertilizer compost for growing plants.  This past year, we easily met that amount of food waste daily, by collecting from World Cup Café, Jubilee Market and the neighborhood’s Blue Bucket Brigade.  The Blue Bucket Brigade (BBB) was an idea that Mission Waco founder and Urban REAP creator, Jimmy Dorrell, had as a way for neighbors to participate in our food waste collection.  Anyone can be in the BBB, by picking up a 5 gallon blue bucket and lid at REAP to keep at home for collecting kitchen scraps.  When it’s full or been under the sink too long, bring it back to our waste drop off area, rinse the bucket in our rinse area, and start all over.  We provide helpful guideline handouts and bags of sawdust to keep the smell down.  It’s been cool to see the community join in the composting efforts with such faithfulness and commitment.  We have made many friends with members of the BBB who regularly drop off their waste.  The highly concentrated compost/fertilizer is sold at REAP in 20lb bags, 1 gallon bags and even compost tea bags.  Looking forward to another year of turning trash into treasure!

Another thing we do at Urban Reap is grow garden plants to sell to the Waco community.  Most all our plants are grown from seed and sold in our sales area behind Jubilee Market.  We grow many varieties of flowers, as well as unique heirloom varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs.  Our sales plants are also growing in our demonstration beds so that customers can see what the size, shape and color the plants they are considering would look like fully grown.   We have had the privilege and pleasure of helping many from the neighborhood with plants and advice for their gardens. In April, we joined the Waco Downtown Farmers Market, where we not only sold our garden plants, but our produce, compost, T-shirts and creative ventures.  Our biggest hit at the farmers was our mini-aquaponics kits, which includes a coupon for an aquaponics plant from our system and a beta fish from the North Waco Fish store next door.  Volunteer, Judy Butts, gets the credit for coming up with that fantastic idea, along with most of the cool creative products sold. We have so enjoyed helping people make their homes, yards and lives beautiful and bountiful. We taking a break from the Farmer’s Market during the summer months and hope to be back in the fall.

Urban REAP’s first year is almost in the books, and all the above couldn’t have happened without the amazingly generous Waco community, Mission Waco Staff and the many, many, wonderful, faithful volunteers who have given their time and talents to make it so special. Two volunteers who went above and beyond in more ways than there is space to write are Tony Allen and Shelley Meyers who were at REAP from the beginning, and volunteered 6 days a week, at least 4-5 hours a day.  They became the aquaponics managers and even received “Volunteer of the Year” awards at Mission Waco’s Annual Banquet.  We also had two wonderful work-studies during the school year, Fischer Heibel and Courtney Doucet, who we couldn’t do without, working 2 hours a day, 6 days a week.  Lastly, our first intern, the delightful Lili Zertuche, has joined us this summer.  She is going into her junior year at Cornell as a sustainable agriculture major.

Daniel Hiatt and Katie Schaeffer

As we look forward to our second year, we are hoping to add classes for the community, lead by master Gardeners and experts on at-home composting, rain water catchment, aquaponics, gardening projects and more.  There are also hopes to eventually have a curriculum on creation care and gardening for youth.  I am so grateful for the privilege of being a part of this beautiful project and the Mission Waco community.  My time as the director is quickly coming to an end on June 30th.  My husband and I are moving on to another ministry we feel called to in Austin at the end of the summer.  We are very sad to say goodbye to the many dear people in Waco who have become sweet friends and like family to us.  So many have left impressions on us that will last a lifetime.  I am so happy to know that Urban REAP will be in the capable hands of its new director, Daniel Hiatt, starting on July 1st.  Daniel lives close by in the neighborhood with his wife and kids, where he has a large parcel of property that he has aspirations of developing an urban farm on.  He is a Truett Seminary graduate, and had Jimmy Dorrell as a professor of a class on Community Development.  He is a deacon at Calvary Church only a few blocks away, and has been involved in exploring avenues to revive and develop the community garden across the street from the church.  He has also been involved with, and a board member for the Heart of Texas Urban Garden Coalition.  His passions and direction in life align with those of the Urban Reap Director position, and we are so grateful that God brought him at just the right time.  Looking forward to what the Lord has in store for REAP in it’s 2nd year with Daniel at the helm.

If you haven’t already, come check us out!  Urban REAP is open to the public Monday-Friday 9am to 4pm, Saturdays 9am to 2pm, and closed on Sundays. Our address is 1505 N. 15th street, Waco, TX, 76707.  If you would like to volunteer or set up a tour, we can be reached by email at urbanreapdirector@missionwaco.org.

Katie Schaeffer and her husband Rick consider it a real privilege to be managing Mission Waco’s amazing Renewable Energy Agricultural Project (REAP).  Katie and Rick came to Waco at the end of 2015, from CA.  Katie is happiest being in nature and tending to plants, and eating good food with friends and family.  She and her husband Rick are also grateful for the privilege and deep joy of raising two sets of twin boys, who are now amazing 23 & 24 year old men. 

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.


Heart of Texas P-20 Goals for 2018-2019

By Christine Holecek and Scott McClanahan

Preparing local students for a successful journey through school and college to careers is critical to the well-being and growth of our community. The Heart Of Texas P-20 works to promote streamlined, transparent degree pathways for students to move quickly and successfully through their education and onto college and/or a career.  The Heart of Texas (HOT) P-20 brings together representatives from the independent school districts (ISD), institutions of higher education (IHE), Region 12 Education Service Center, industry and government across six counties: Bosque, Hill, Falls, Limestone, Freestone and McLennan to work towards this goal.

According to The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board website:

“By 2030, 60 percent or more of all new jobs will require some level of higher education. Today, only 42 percent of young Texans between the ages of 25 and 34 have an associate degree or higher.

Rapid innovation and technological progress are changing the face of work in Texas. Higher education must prepare students for this reality. It must also prepare them to adapt as the job market changes. This calls for new ways of thinking about higher education. We must look at how colleges and universities can meet the civic and economic needs of Texas not only today but in the future.

As Texas Commissioner of Higher Education Raymund Paredes said in 2016, ‘We are going to have to innovate – to come up with creative ideas about how to address our needs and achieve our goals.’

It will take energy and creativity to reach the goals of 60x30TX. And everyone in Texas will have a role to play. Success depends on taking bold actions and working together to create and expand promising higher education practices. Together, we can fulfill the four student-centered goals of 60x30TX and make higher education possible for the greatest number of Texans!”

The Heart of Texas P-20 Council met this past week to set the goals and strategic priorities for the next school year. The Council reviewed the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) state goal entitled 60X30TX. The Council decided to align our activities to the states goals. Dr. Scott McClanahan, Chair, Provided the list of priorities for the upcoming school year. (Click here to see presentation on 60X30TX.)

Priorities for 2017-2018 include:

  • Analyze (using TSI scores) and improve quality of high school college readiness course (Career Prep).
  • Analyze high school reports developed by MCC to identify focus areas for TSI preparation and other college readiness needs
  • Utilize the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce to facilitate definition of marketable skills by local industry
  • Continue to grow internship and job shadowing programs and expand the number of participating districts and employers.
  • Restructure Annual State of Education Event to speak to businesses about workforce readiness of local graduates and opportunities for employers to participate in P-20 efforts like internships for students and externships for teachers.
  • Use lessons learned from Project Link to develop a local College Access network that will partner high schools, colleges, and local college readiness programs in helping students transition to post-secondary education.
  • Reengage the AVATAR project to continue Vertical alignment between Secondary and Post-Secondary.

If you are interested in attending the quarterly HOT P-20 Council Meetings they have been scheduled from 8:00-10:00 at Education Service Center Region 12:

  • September 5, 2019
  • December 12, 2018
  • March 20, 2019
  • June 12, 2019

Christine Holecek is an Education Specialist at Education Service Center Region 12 in Waco. She has worked in the area of Adult Education and Career & Technical Education for the past 25 years. She earned an AAS degree from MCC, a BAAS and Master’s Degree from the University of North Texas and is currently enrolled in the Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Tarleton State University.

Dr. Scott McClanahan is the Executive Director of Secondary Curriculum and Instruction for the Waco Independent School District. Originally from the Chicago suburbs, Dr. McClanahan moved to Texas to earn both his Masters degree and Doctorate. He has been a middle school and high school teacher, a community college professor, and a university adjunct professor.

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.