Get started on your health career in high school with GWACHA

by Krystal Wilson

The Greater Waco Advanced Health Care Academy is a unique and innovative program that provides a challenging learning environment to foster student success in the healthcare industry while preparing students for future health care careers. A collaborative partnership exists with Baylor Scott and White Hillcrest Hospital, Providence Hospital, McLennan Community College, Waco Independent School District and multiple school districts including Bruceville-Eddy, Connally, La Vega, Lorena, McGregor, Mexia, Midway, Riesel, Robinson, and Troy High Schools.  Through this community partnership, students from the Greater Waco area are provided with the opportunity to participate in hands on learning with a specific focus on patient care.  Participating junior and senior level high school students spend half a day at the academy and the remaining portion of the day at their home campus.  During their time at the Health Care Academy, students receive valuable classroom experience, and an opportunity to perform clinical rotations in the local hospitals and nursing homes in the area.  This allows students to work side by side with certified nursing assistants, licensed vocational nurses and registered nurses in actual health care facilities.

Our Program

Our program is organized into two distinct pathways.  First year students receive instruction in Anatomy and Physiology, World Health Research and Health Science Clinical and Theory classes.  This coursework allows students to obtain their Texas Nurse Aide certification and attend clinicals at various long-term care facilities throughout the school year.  Second year students explore Pathophysiology and participate in the Practicum in Health Science courses, allowing them to attend clinical rotations at both Providence and Baylor Scott and White Hillcrest Hospitals to focus on acute patient care and career exploration.  All students are concurrently enrolled in their traditional high school courses including English, History and Math at their home high school campus to ensure all graduation requirements are met.  Dual credit options are also available for qualifying students hoping to get a head start on college courses.

Our Facilities

We are housed in the newly renovated Viking Hills Elementary where we are equipped to provide students with wonderful lab spaces to practice skills and techniques.  Our twelve bed simulation lab allows students to manipulate programmable and positioning mannequins and complete patient care skills prior to working on residents and patients in clinical settings.  This year we received approval to become our own certified nurse aide testing site. This will allow our students to complete their CNA test on campus, in a familiar location.  Research and the use of technology is an important focus at the academy.  Our computer lab provides access to thirty desktop computers often used for research projects, online activities, and dual credit courses.  We are also equipped with a mobile laptop cart and a science lab with a primary use of dissections for Anatomy and Physiology.

Our Faculty and Staff

This unique program employs healthcare workers with strong content knowledge and industry experience to transition into the teaching profession to work with our students.  Our staff includes a registered nurse, several licensed vocational nurses, a simulation lab coordinator and a laboratory technician.

More Information

GWAHCA opened its doors in August of 2015 and continues to grow.  The academy utilizes community input and guidance from an advisory board to explore ways to meet community needs and serve student interests to determine the best career pathways for future expansion.  Students must apply each year to attend with the application window opening from January-March.  If you would like more information about the Greater Waco Advanced Health Care Academy visit us at or check us out on Facebook for the most recent academy pictures and updates.

Krystal Wilson has worked with Waco Independent School District for 15 years serving at the elementary, middle and high school levels as a teacher, instructional specialist and campus administrator.  She lives in Waco with her husband, Clint, and their two children, Grady and Maggie.

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.

Alternative therapies and choosing a therapist

By Deanna Leach, CST, LMT, LMTI

People have often asked me, “How did you know that was in my body? You went straight to it!” Well, it’s a gift and I’ve been highly trained to listen with my hands. Our bodies show us what is wrong if we will only listen. They will even lead us to emotional connections to our symptoms if we ask the right questions. A well trained alternative therapist can assist our bodies to rebalance, repair, and renew.

In my work as a CranioSacral therapist, I’ve been trained and certified by the Dr. John Upledger (D.O.) Institute to listen to what the body is showing me. I may ask questions (what we call dialoguing) to help us find the origin of the problem, what purpose the body has for holding onto it, and how we can help the body release a restriction to help it get back to homeostasis. Say for instance, you had a car accident and in the moment of the accident, you suddenly turned your head back to check on your child in the back seat as you know the impact is unavoidable. You go to the doctor because you have whiplash symptoms and they prescribe muscle relaxers. That gets you through the worst of the whiplash symptoms but something is still lingering in your neck. You seek out my assistance and we find that the fear you experienced about the safety of your child during impact is still stuck in the tissue. Often, the effect of trauma leads us to have an emotional connection to it. SomatoEmotional Release is a release of emotional energy that may be necessary to fully discharge a trauma. The car accident is a simple example, but imagine the emotions connected to a woman being raped; or a child being neglected or abused; or a soldier or police officer killing someone in the line of duty; or any number of traumas, some minor and some severe, that humans deal with in their lifetime.

In addition to CranioSacral, I use Visceral Manipulation (and Visceral Emotional therapy) to find an organ that is holding onto some emotion that is causing it to be dysfunctional (or a dysfunctional organ that is causing emotional distress). You know the term “stuffing it,” right? We literally “put things” in our bodies, particularly when we don’t want to deal with them. Dr. Barral, D.O., who developed Visceral Manipulation and other modalities, has discovered that certain organs hold particular emotions. The body’s viscera are like a complicated timepiece, each part in subtle but perpetual motion relative to the others. Problems arise when trauma or malfunction throws the system out of alignment. For instance, when my father died suddenly, I had a very supportive family who helped each other through our grief. I thought I was handling his death well. I went to a Visceral Manipulation training a few months later and, as someone worked on my spleen, I started crying. I knew immediately that the emotion was about my dad. Turns out the spleen carries profound grief. Although I felt I was doing the work of grieving, I was apparently holding the overwhelming portion of that in my spleen. With precise but subtle anatomical work, we can release these things from our bodies.

We can also work in the brain and the limbic system to help dissipate emotional responses to previous trauma. The limbic system is our emotional brain. It can react before the cognitive brain governs with reason. It is that part of our brain that controls the fight, flight, or freeze response. In a stressful situation, the brain reacts by sending nervous, chemical, and hormonal messages to the body, either instantaneously or deferred. Visceral memorization takes its course: the organs’ cells record the messages and send them back to the brain, reinforcing emotional imbalance in the brain, and setting off an emotional resonance. We can help the brain tone down an overactive response with Visceral Emotional work. Imagine how this can help someone who is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); or a baby after a difficult birthing process; or an abuse survivor.

These therapies, sometimes used in conjunction with talk therapy (psychotherapy), can produce powerful results to help trauma survivors move through life in a whole new way, with better health mentally, emotionally, and physically.

Our bodies are amazing. They will carry our load if we can’t or won’t. However, at some point (we often recognize it as we age), we need to help our bodies release these restrictions before dysfunction becomes disease. If we will trust that our body can heal itself with the right therapies, we can have greater health and well-being.

A quick note on how to carefully choose your body therapist:

  • Primarily, listen to your body, listen to your intuition. If a therapist doesn’t feel right, they probably aren’t right for you.
  • The number of sessions should be based on simple logic and on moral agreement. You are working together and you must participate. What you do physically, nutritionally, and mentally between sessions plays a major role in treatment success. The therapist should want to refer you if you are not making some progress after 3 or 4 sessions. You should feel there is a plan. If the plan isn’t helping, try a different therapy or a different therapist.
  • The therapist’s goal should be to improve the patient’s health.
  • The therapist should keep their place, and not judge you or your family and friends. Avoid a therapist who makes you feel guilty or who mixes religion and therapy. Abuse does occur. Be aware of it.
  • Certification and training matters. If a therapist claims to do a certain modality, ask for their training credentials. It takes more than one or two classes to become a good therapist in any modality. For the modalities I have discussed here, you can look up credentials information on (International Association of Healthcare Practitioners) by clicking “Find a Practitioner” and search by city or name.

Here’s to your better emotional and physical health!

Deanna Leach, CST, LMT, LMTI, is a certified CranioSacral Therapist who continues to train extensively in alternative therapies including Visceral Manipulation, Lymph Drainage, and Manual Articular Approach. She has been licensed as a massage therapist since 1999 and has practiced CranioSacral therapy since 2001. She regularly works in intensive multi-hands CranioSacral programs around the country and with dolphins in the Bahamas. She lives with two wonderful therapy dogs, Ruby Sue and Emma, and a cat, Elle, all who she regularly serenades with original ditties.

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.



Empowered to Connect

By Brett Greenfield

The complexity of the human brain is utterly fascinating. The brain holds the mechanisms that allow humans to breathe, speak, move, think, and act in the world. It also contains our ability to understand our senses, emotions, and memories. The intricate movement of electricity, chemicals, and blood throughout our brains and bodies only adds to the depth of understanding required to understand the brain. Trying to know what is going on in our own heads, much less trying to learn what is going on in someone else’s is a difficult task. Our decisions, memories, thoughts, feelings, senses, and so much more filter through the complex web of our working brain. Despite its complexity, there are fundamental functions of the human brain that when understood, provide a depth of insight for understanding ourselves and others in a way that allows each person to be more understanding, empathetic, and compassionate to others.

From our earliest moments in life, our brains do some heavy lifting to ensure we get what we need to survive. When babies cry, they are using their voice to tell their caregivers they are hungry, tired, dirty, or maybe just need a little love and reassurance. Each and every time a baby cries and there is a loving caregiver present to meet their need the brain activates its complex systems that begin to form the foundations of trust in relationships, language, physical health, and other important functions. As children grow up and become teenagers and adults, these basic needs never go away, they simply get more complex along with their brains and bodies.

Unfortunately, many children do not have this same experience of getting their needs met. The brains of these children continue to develop, but the already complex systems required to function become confused, making it more difficult to function. The human brain is pretty good at knowing what it needs to do to survive. This is why the brain communicates the basics of food, sleep, cleanliness, and love from the beginning. Ideally, loving caregivers meet these needs and take up the responsibility for a child’s survival. When this cannot or does not happen, children take up the responsibility for their own survival. It is not easy to live in survival mode all the time. It is also not easy to live with someone else who is constantly in survival mode. This feeling of constantly being in survival mode is one that is far too familiar for many families. And many of these families find themselves asking, “What is going on here?” “What are we doing wrong?” “What are we supposed to do?” These are big, daunting, real life questions. There is certainly no easy answer to any of these questions, but there is hope.

It would take a lifetime to learn even a fraction of what is going on in every person’s brain, but there is no better time to start than now. MCH Family Outreach is pleased to once again be hosting the “Empowered to Connect” conference. This unique opportunity gives parents, professionals, caregivers, and community members the chance to learn more about how children develop and grow, and what to do to support this growth and learning. This information is beneficial for all children, and is imperative for children for whom life has not always been safe or stable. Raising a family can be challenging for everyone, and too many families feel they have to do it alone. Empowered to Connect is an opportunity to learn more about yourself and your children surrounded by people willing to learn and grow together.

If you, your organization, or someone you know is interested in attending the Empowered to Connect Conference (April 7-8), click HERE for more information. Admission is FREE, so be sure to register by March 31st while there are still seats available!

Brett Greenfield is social worker in Waco, TX. He is a graduate of the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work and currently serves as a Case Manager with MCH Family Outreach. He is passionate about working with families in the community and offering community education in trauma-informed care, attachment, and family relationships.


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.