2nd Annual Central Texas Historically Black Colleges and Universities Community Fair Offers Students a Variety of Local Resources

By Bridget Heins

Educators and parents know that a student’s journey to college begins long before their senior year. Exploring higher education options begins as early as middle school and in some cases earlier. While this task may seem overwhelming, college fairs are one tool in determining what each institution of higher education has to offer.

Every college is unique and offers its own brand of experience for students. Some choose a college that excels in their particular field or has a reputation for successful job placement upon graduation. Others may choose a particular institution based on academic rigor, sports prowess, or family connection. Students have options, and narrowing the choices to the find the right fit depends on knowing what questions to ask.  The best way to practice this skill is to speak with college recruiters whenever possible.

Central Texas students have the opportunity to attend a unique college fair this weekend in Waco…and it’s FREE! The 2nd Annual Central Texas Historically Black Colleges and Universities Community Fair will take place in the City of Waco’s Multi-Purpose Building on Saturday, March 30, 2019, from 2:00 – 4:00 pm. This event is possible through a partnership between Rapoport Academy Public School, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Delta Alpha Omega Chapter, Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce, Centex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the Doris Miller Y. 

Founded before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Historically Black Colleges and Universities initially existed to serve African-American students.  Today, there are over 100 HBCUs nation-wide admitting students regardless of race. With a service mentality, they make an impact on all students but especially those underrepresented in higher education. Waco was once home to an HBCU, Paul Quinn College, before its move to Dallas in 1990. While Paul Quinn is no longer located on Elm Avenue, the campus still serves as a site to educate and promote the spirit of HBCUs as it provides the venue for this event.

While the event highlights the opportunities of attending an HBCU, this is not your typical college fair as it also focuses on college-readiness and supportive resources available in our community. There are three components of the fair intended to demystify the process: College – Community – Education.

Attendees will have the opportunity to speak with admissions counselors about entrance requirements, campus life, application deadlines, and prospective majors. Students are encouraged to bring copies of their transcript and resume as recruiters may take the option of admitting students on the spot. Colleges expected to attend include Paul Quinn College, Xavier, Morgan State University, North Carolina Central University, Prairie View A&M, Fort Valley State University, Lincoln University, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, Arkansas Baptist, Texas State University, Jarvis Christian College, Wiley College, Texas Tech-Waco, and the University Center at MCC.

Local community organizations will be on-hand to offer valuable resources for college-bound students. Those resources include scholarships, mentorships, tutoring, leadership opportunities, SAT/ACT prep, assistance in understanding and completing the application and financial aid process, and much more. Over 15 organizations are committed to attending including members of the Sororities and Fraternities that make up the Divine Nine, Prince Hall Masonic Lodge, MAC College Money Program, CAP – VOICE, Mentor Waco, Jack and Jill of America, Links, Communities in Schools, East Waco Library, Creative Waco, with more expected. College and Career Counselors from Rapoport Academy, University High School, and Waco High School will also be available to answer questions related to college readiness, testing options, and pathways to dual-credit classes.

Alpha Kappa Alpha will lead the education component of the event using their CAP (College Application Process) which seeks to provide support and guidance in navigating the college application and enrollment process. Sessions include maximizing your financial aid led by VOICE, Demystifying the TSI (Texas Success Initiative) led by TSTC, and FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) Facts led by the Waco Foundation’s MAC Money Program.

Colleges from across the country will travel to Waco in hopes of recruiting students from our community. Among our students, they will find those who are already earning college credit through dual-credit opportunities at McLennan Community College and Texas State Technical College and even earning an Associate’s degree before graduating from high school. They will encounter others who have taken advantage of leadership opportunities and internships offered by businesses and community organizations committed to providing our young people with experiences that inspire them to make and achieve their goals. They will also discover students who have benefitted from the creative, innovative programs offered through our local schools in a community that actively advocates for its children.  Most importantly, they will engage some on the first step of the journey, those who are just beginning to dream.

Students in the Greater Waco Community are equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary to take the next step into their future, and this will be their time to shine!

The HBCU Community Fair is FREE and open to all area students, parents, or those interested in higher education. To register a student for the event, please visit rapoportacademy.org or the Central Texas HBCU Community Fair event page on FaceBook (@centexhbcu). Registration is encouraged but not required. Community organizations with resources for students may participate by contacting Bridget Heins at 254-218-9367.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities Community Fair

  • Saturday, March 30, 2019
  • 2:00 – 4:00 pm
  • Multi-Purpose Building
  • 1020 Elm Avenue, Waco, TX 76704
  • Cost: FREE

Bridget Heins is the Director of Community Relations for Rapoport Academy Public School and a proud, life-long resident of the Waco Community.

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.

Change a habit — avoid diabetes!

Tuesday, March 26, is American Diabetes Association (ADA) Alert Day®, and the YMCA of Central Texas wants residents of McLennan County to know their risk for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, as well as preventive steps they can take today to reduce the chances of developing the disease.

In the United States alone, diabetes affects over 30 million people; another 84.1 million Americans have prediabetes, yet only about 10 percent are aware of it. These statistics are alarming, and the impact on the cost of health care (in 2012 alone, the ADA estimates that diabetes cost the health care system $245 billion) makes preventing the number of new cases of type 2 diabetes more important than ever before.

The nation’s struggle with obesity and type 2 diabetes is no surprise but the number of people with prediabetes is a growing issue, especially when so few people realize they have the condition. Prediabetes is a condition in which individuals have blood glucose levels that are higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. Often preventable, people with prediabetes can reduce their risk for developing type 2 diabetes by adopting behavior changes that include eating healthier and increasing physical activity. People with prediabetes are at risk for not only developing type 2 diabetes, but also cardiovascular disease, stroke and other conditions.

As the leading community-based network committed to improving the nation’s health the YMCA of Central Texas encourages all adults to take a diabetes risk test at www.ymca.net/diabetes. Several factors that could put a person at risk for type 2 diabetes include family history, age, weight and activity level, among others.

“Diabetes Alert Day is the perfect time to not only determine our own risk for prediabetes, but also encourage our family and friends to determine their chances of developing the disease,” said Crystal Hernandez, Program Manager for the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, Waco Family YMCA. “Studies show that people with prediabetes can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes by making simple lifestyle changes that include eating healthier and increasing physical activity.”

The YMCA of Central Texas is helping people potentially reduce the risk of developing prediabetes or type 2 diabetes by offering The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program.

Some basic lifestyle changes that contribute to weight loss and an increased focus on healthy living can decrease the risk for type 2 diabetes. Among these are:

  • Reduce portion sizes of the foods you eat that may be high in fat or calories.
  • Keep a food diary to increase awareness of eating patterns and behaviors.
  • Be moderately active at least 30 minutes per day five days a week.
  • Choose water to drink instead of beverages with added sugar.

Incorporate more activity in your day, like taking the stairs or parking farther away from your destination.

Speak to your doctor about diabetes risk factors, especially if you have a family history of the disease or are overweight. 

To learn more about the YMCA of Central Texas’s Diabetes Prevention Program, please visit ymcactx.org or contact Crystal Hernandez at 254-776-6612 or crystal.hernandez@ymcactx.org.

“Water for All” matters world wide – we can do our part in Waco too!

By Melissa Mullins

The theme for this year’s World Water Day (celebrated annually on March 22) is  Water for All .      What does this mean?  Access to clean water and sanitation is a basic human right and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6 establishes 2030 as a target for achieving this (which is right around the corner). 2.1 billion people live without safe water at home.   In many parts of the world, people cannot simply turn on the faucet and have water come out.  If water is not supplied to households or easily accessible central locations, how do people get water?  Securing the family’s basic water needs daily often falls mainly to women and girls, and can take up such a large amount of time that it affects their ability to obtain education or thrive in other ways.  Similarly, many people cannot simply flush their toilets to dispose of human wastes.  On a global scale, more than 700 children under 5 die each day from diarrhea related to unsafe water and sanitation

Here in the U.S., communities struggle with issues such as lead-contamination of drinking water – we’ve all heard of the on-going struggles in Flint, Michigan.  But getting concerned about  Water for All on a global scale for may be difficult because, after all, we can turn on a faucet and flush a toilet pretty much anywhere we go.  What about water issues closer to home?

Water for people can be water for fish and wildlife too, although there may be competing demands for water.  Balancing these demands to try to ensure adequate water for all, especially in places subject to drought (sound familiar?) or water scarcity is one of the major things that natural resource and other public agencies deal with.  If you want to learn about, help protect, or just experience and enjoy our water resources in the Waco Community, there are so many opportunities do so and they are growing all the time!  Here’s a few suggestions:

Learn:  Where does your water comes from and how does it get to you?  Where does it go when you flush the toilet and how is it treated?  If you don’t know the answer to these questions (and it will be different depending on where you are in the Greater Waco area), I challenge you to figure it out!

Keep it Clean and Conserve:  Join Keep Waco Beautiful for the quarterly Brazos River Cleanup  coming up on April 13th, or for one of their rainwater harvesting classes.  Group W Bench litter patrol non-profit regularly plans clean-ups around our community.  Everyone’s probably seen the upsetting picture of the  sea turtle with the plastic straw up its nose .  Did you know that 80% of ocean pollution begins on land (including plastics, but also other pollution)?  That means that Whataburger cup and non-trash pollution that starts here in Waco can end up in the Gulf of Mexico (yes- Waco Creek flows to the Brazos River, and the Brazos River flows to the Gulf!)

Check yourself and ask local businesses and governments what they are doing:  Being a good steward of water means more than turning off the faucet when you brush your teeth or taking shorter showers.   Could we reduce the need for so many river clean-ups if we didn’t use disposable water bottles and straws in the first place?  Could we support businesses that provide better alternatives to the waste generated with our “convenience lifestyle”? 

Many people don’t realize that energy production is a major user of water in the U.S.  Can you carpool some places you don’t already or even walk?  Can you attend public meetings (such as have been occurring recently in Waco) regarding setting community-wide goals for transitioning to sustainable energy sources?  The City of Waco’s long-term goals include improved public transportation and improvements to our city’s walkability and bikability , but there’s still a lot of work to be done, and your voice and energy as a community member are valuable.

Enjoy our water resources:  Take a walk on the Waco Riverwalk that links Cameron Park, Downtown, and the Baylor campus, on both sides of the river (free!).  Or, get out on the water- did you know that we have not one but two Texas paddling trails in downtown Waco?  There are two paddling companies where you can rent canoes or kayaks, and for those with their own boats the Waco Paddle Club organizes outings on local water bodies.  There’s a pontoon boat tour that is fun for residents as well as Waco visitors. Want to head out to the lake?  You can purchase an annual pass from the US Army Corps of Engineers that gives you access to all the parks around Lake Waco.  Want your kids to be safe while at the lake?  The Corps offers water safety programs  designed to reduce water-related fatalities;  in addition to always wearing a life jacket, swimming lessons are one of the best things you can do to ensure your family’s safety around water, and swimming lessons are available through the YMCA of Central Texas (including financial assistance).  Take your dogs on a hike or practice your nature photography or birdwatching skills at the beautiful Lake Waco Wetlands – or join Cameron Park Zoo staff for National Frog Month to explore and search for frogs at the Wetlands every weekend in April

Celebrate: There are many community events that are affordable or free and have water-related connections.  Of course, Act Locally Waco keeps us up to date on all the happenings.  Keep the “Water for All” celebration going throughout the year!

Melissa Mullins is a water educator who works at Baylor University’s Center for Reservoir and Aquatic Systems Research.  The Center celebrated World Water Day by facilitating citizen science water quality testing  in after-school science clubs, at the Mayborn Museum and at Girl Scouts of Central Texas STEMfest.

“Spring onto Summer Food Drive” helps feed kids – Donations and Volunteers needed

Press Release – The community’s help is needed to deal with the serious problem of child hunger in McLennan County, which worsens in the summer when many children are home from school and cannot receive free, nutritional meals provided in schools.  A special spring food drive is being conducted to aid in this effort.   The ninth annual “Spring Onto Summer Food Drive,” which will take place on Saturday, April 13, 2019, is designed to help local food pantries better meet the increased demand for supplemental food that is expected during the summer—a time when there is also a decrease in food and monetary donations to these organizations.

Pantries to receive food donated through this drive are Shepherds Heart Food Pantries, Salvation Army, and Caritas of Waco.

When school is out families in need have more mouths to feed at home. The demand for food is much greater at local pantries.  We are asking the community to help stock the shelves of these local pantries to assist them in caring for people in need.

Individuals are encouraged to donate food on April 13th between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. at one of the following locations:

  • Wal-Mart, 1521 N IH-35, Bellmead
  • Wal-Mart, 600 S. Hewitt Dr., Hewitt
  • Wal-Mart, 4320 Franklin, Waco
  • Wal-Mart 733 Sun Valley Blvd, Hewitt
  • Sam’s Club, 2301 E. Waco Drive, Bellmead
  • Brookshire’s Food Stores, 100 Peplow St., Robinson
  • Brookshire Brothers, 406 N Frontage Rd, Lorena, TX 76655

Volunteers will be handing out lists of needed food items and encouraging shoppers to purchase such items while in the store and to place this food in specially marked containers before leaving.   Among needed food items are canned meats, canned vegetables, cereals, baby food, peanut butter, macaroni & cheese, dry beans, rice, corn meal and pasta/sauces.  Monetary donations are also accepted.

Wal-Mart and KXXV-TV–Channel 25 are serving as corporate sponsors for the drive. 

For information about how to donate to the food drive, please go to www.shepherdsheartpantry.org or contact Bob Gager at 254-722-9517 or shepherds.heart@yahoo.com or Buddy Edwards at 254-722-7698 or bedwards@caritas-waco.org.

What if we approached learning about parenting the same way we approach learning about other adventures?

By Brooke Davilla

Imagine that you want to run a marathon, become a cake decorator, travel the world, or start a new business. Okay, now what? Wing it. Wait, no. What? Of course we don’t wing it. Most of us would not launch into an important undertaking without some level of preparation. For some, it may be enough to watch a quick You Tube video or read the highlights, while others may seek to become experts on the subject. Either way, we typically approach new endeavors with an openness to learn.  

Yet, when it comes to raising children, one of the biggest adventures in the human experience, we tend to think we must intuitively know what to do and instinctively be able to do it. Worse yet, when we find ourselves in a parenting pickle, we often feel a sense of shame around the idea of asking for help. What if we approached parenting with the same openness to learn as we would any other adventure?  

Four reasons why you should attend a parenting class: 

1. Gain tools: Stuck with only the tools your caregivers gave you? A parenting class can help you learn new strategies to engage, guide, and discipline. As children grow and change, what worked yesterday, likely won’t work today, and what works for this child rarely works for the next. As my husband likes to say, “You can never have too many tools.”

2. Learn the latest: Research on human development and relationships continues to evolve. Thoughts on best practices for raising children has changed over the years. Attending a parent education class is one way to stay up to date on evidence-based practices when it comes to caring for little ones.

3. Build confidence: Am I doing enough to ensure my child grows up to be a well-adjusted contributing member of society? The million-dollar question that every parent asks every day. Having a safe environment to ask questions and practice new skills is a great way to strengthen your confidence as a parent.

4. Create community: ‘It takes a village’ might be cliché, but oh-so-true when it comes to parenting children. Attending a group parenting class will give you a chance to meet other caregivers and expand your support system.

Whatever journey brought you to your caregiving role – surprise or planning, biology or adoption, permanent or temporary – a parenting class could add to your preparation to handle the many loops of the adventure we call parenting. MCH staff is passionate about supporting children, youth, and families and have been trained to teach three different evidence-based curriculums – Nurturing Parenting®, Circle of Security®, and a Trust-Based Relational Intervention® class called Connected Caregivers. There are always new groups starting and they are always open to partnering with schools, organizations, and congregations to open a new class.  

Wherever you are on your parenting journey, MCH Family Outreach exists to support you! Please call 254-750-1263 to find out more about our free services and determine how we can best serve you and your family. 

6 Week Nurturing Parenting (NP) classes curriculum include Philosophy and Practices of Nurturing Parenting; Ages & Stages (Infants & Toddlers); Brain Development (Children & Teens); Building Self-Worth; Communicating with Respect; Praising Children and their Behavior; Dealing with Stress; Understanding Feelings; Alternatives to Spanking; Family Morals, Values and Rules; Humor, Laughter and Fun with Children. Childcare is not provided.

Next Class: April 30 – June 4.  Tuesdays, 12:30 – 2:30 PM.  Tuition: Free. To register, call: 254-750-1263  

Brooke Davilla is the Director of MCH Family Outreach Waco for Methodist Children’s Home. She graduated from Baylor University with a MSW in Social Work, concentration in Community Practice, where she now teaches part-time. Brooke is passionate about cultivating a trauma informed community and is a TBRI® Practitioner. She enjoys spending time with her husband and two sons traveling, being in nature and often at the baseball fields. You can reach Brooke at bdavilla@mch.org.

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.