10 Fun & Creative Family Activities for Spring Break in Waco!

by Rebecca Edwards

In Waco for Spring Break? You are in luck! There are some wonderful ways you can have some creative fun with your family – no matter what age they are! Here is my personal top 10 list. What would be on yours?

#10 The Dr. Pepper Museum with its Wild West Exhibit – Aside from all the history of Dr. Pepper, there is a great homage to the cowboys and cowgirls that have helped market the soda. Sweet treats in the old­fashioned soda fountain, too. On March 7th, the DPM begins its “summer” hours, meaning it’s open on Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm and Sunday 12pm to 5pm. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for students, Seniors & Military $7

#9 Cameron Park Zoo – (Be sure to take advantage of the zoo shuttle – the parking lot fills up quickly.) On Sunday, March 13th, 11am to 2pm, the zoo will host “Spring Forward for Amphibians” with special activities. But the rest of the week will be wonderful to walk the grounds and gaze at our animals living right here in the city! Playgrounds and the gift shop offer the weary some rest. The Zoo is open Monday through Saturday 9 am to 5 pm and Sunday 11 am to 5 pm. Admission is $10 for Adults, $7 for children 4­12 years old, $9 for Seniors (Children 3 and under are free and Military discounts are offered).

kids painting#8 Art Center Waco: GS DeFoore Exhibit, Cookies & Coloring, sculpture trail AND Spring Break Pottery Class – Okay, the Art Center is one of my favorite gems of Waco. Above Cameron Park and the river, the views are spectacular, the grounds (with walkable sculpture trail) are inspiring, and the gallery space is inviting and peaceful. Aside from the permanent structure of the Art Center itself, the goings­on inside are also enticing. The GS DeFoore Exhibit just opened and will be up through May 27th. On Wednesday, March 9th, Doreen Plott of Mammoth Creek Pottery will be hosting a pottery class from 9am to noon. (Limited to 10, Registration $50). And on Friday, March 11th, free Cookies & Coloring will be back from 3pm to 5pm to explore the work of Jackson Pollock and eat cookies! What’s not to love??? The Art Center is open Tuesday through Saturday 10am to 5pm. Admission is FREE!!

#7 Magnolia Silos and Food Trucks – In case you didn’t know, there’s a little HGTV show that has made Waco a destination city. And Magnolia Market at the Silos is its base camp! I like the store and all, but the “park” like feel of the grounds and the beauty of community are what have drawn me to the silos. The food trucks (looking at you, Luna Juice Bar and Club Sandwich) are a great excuse to drop by and have lunch while the kids run and tumble on the astroturf lawn with its old fashioned games. The store and grounds are open Monday to Thursday 10am to 6pm and Friday & Saturday 9am to 6pm. Closed Sunday. Admission is FREE!!

#6 Armstrong Browning Library at Baylor University – This grand library may be an odd suggestion for children on Spring Break, but the current exhibition of the library’s collection of children’s literature is worth checking out. The building itself is a masterpiece of architecture, and the grounds around Baylor are perfect for strolling, biking, or scootering. The library is open Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm, and on Saturday 10am to 2pm. Admission is FREE!!

#5 THE Waco Hippodrome – If you haven’t checked out the beautiful renovations done to our Grand Old Dame, the Hippodrome is worth a visit. Offering first­run movies, delightful old favorites, and a delicious menu (you can eat WHILE watching a movie), it should be pretty high on your list. Especially with the free concert coming up on March 7th at 7pm: The Air Force Celtic Band! Advanced tickets are available on the website—for FREE. (Did I mention this concert is free?) The Hippodrome offers lunch Monday through Friday 11am to 2pm, and the kitchen & bar are open Monday through Friday beginning at 5pm and Saturday and Sunday, beginning at 11am (for awesome brunch!). Admission for most movies and showtimes is $5, First ­run movies in the evening are $8.

#4 Mayborn Museum at Baylor University – Every. Single. Day. The Mayborn has special Spring Break activities planned in the Bill & Vera Daniel Historical Village every single day of the week. Monday is Chore Day, Tuesday is Grinding Day, Wednesday is Planting Day, Thursday is Candle Making, and Friday is Game Day! These activities are only from 1pm to 3pm in the village, with some days featuring a horse­drawn carriage or animals in the village. But if you miss that, don’t worry. The Mr. Potato Head & Tinker Toy exhibit are also worth the visit! Not to mention the chance to see Disney­Pixar’s Toy Story in the museum theater at 11am and 3pm every day. AND Mr. Potato Head himself will make an appearance every day at 10:30 and 2:30. Aside from the traveling exhibits and special events, the regular exhibits are what keep our family members to this treasure of a museum. We like to feel small next to the mammoth skull and giant turtle skeleton in the Strecker wing. We like to explore the wonders of light and water and magnetism in the discovery rooms. And the museum store is a favorite spot to spend allowance money! The Mayborn is open from 10am to 5pm Monday through Saturday, with extended hours on Thursdays until 8pm. Open Sunday from 1pm to 5pm. Admission to the traveling exhibit includes regular admission Adults: $10.00, Children(18 months to 12 years of age): $5.00 Seniors (65 years and older): $9.00.

#3 The Waco­McLennan Public Library’s Spring Break Programming – From the time my oldest was a toddler, we have been taking advantage of the FREE programming at the Waco Library. Toddler time, Preschool Storytime, Summer showcases, special interest clubs. There is something for every age child. In fact, there are just too many to list here. Check out the library website for details about the Zooniversity visiting the South Waco Library or the Board Game club at the West Waco Library or the Family Kite Worksop at Central Library (pre­register for that one!). And the regular programming isn’t letting up just because it is Spring Break! Toddler Time and Story Time are still happening! Plus, Books! Movies! Audiobooks! Free Wi­fi and computer use! Get a library card because it will take you places without having to actually travel. I am a HUGE fan. The Libraries are open most days from 10am to 6pm, with each branch having extended hours on certain days. Admission AND Library Cards are FREE!!!

#2 Sightseeing WacoTown’s Public Art – Waco is changing! It is becoming a place of vibrant art and culture—if it hasn’t always been, the cocoon is cracking. I want to encourage anyone to walk or bike along the Suspension Bridge and marvel at the Branding the Brazos sculptures that capture the scenes of the first crossings of our famous bridge. Find the Freedom Fountain at the Waco Convention Center and try to read the word “FREEDOM” in all the languages that surround it. Find our “You look Nice today, WacoTown” mural at 7th & Washington. Seek out our art. Support our artists at galleries like the Art Center of Waco, Anthem Studios, Art Forum, Martin Museum of Art, and Studio Gallery. See what artists have been doing in our city and celebrate! Go to the public art outside ANYTIME. For the art galleries, check their hours. Admission is FREE!!!

And the NUMBER ONE event in Waco during Spring Break is….

#1 FIRST FRIDAY!!! – Okay, so it doesn’t last all week, but it does start on the very first evening of Spring Break: Friday, March 4th! And the event is all over and really all afternoon and into the evening. Something for everyone and a chance (excuse?) to check out new places in town, like the Findery. Or maybe not even new ones—what about spots that have been around but there’s never been a chance to see what they are all about? Use this First Friday as a ticket to explore what downtown has to offer! Different venues have different hours. Admission is FREE!!!

Rebecca EdwardsRebecca Edwards grew up in West Texas and has lived in Waco for the better part of 24 years. After graduating from Baylor, she married Joel and they have three children.  After careers in banking and travel,  her titles now include Wife, Mother, Substitute Teacher, Photographer, Arts Enthusiast, and Craft Dabbler. 

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.






Nurse Family Partnership working hard for Families and Children

by Alyssa Holloway

HBC PurpleAs one of the graduate assistants on the Healthy Babies Coalition in Waco, I have had the amazing opportunity of serving this growing community alongside organizations and agencies devoted to the health of women and children. These agencies truly make up the backbone of Waco. They work hard without the publicity, fame, or acknowledgment they deserve. The Healthy Babies Coalition started from the Healthy Texas Babies Initiative, an initiative of the Texas Department of State Health Services developed to help Texas communities lower their infant mortality rates. Waco is in the top 10% of highest infant mortality rates in Texas, and the Healthy Babies Coalition is determined to fight these terrible odds. Our community initiative includes partnering with agencies to create a plan for inter-conception health information to be provided to clients, encouraging the creation of a reproductive life plan with clients, as well as encouraging clients to see their physicians and enter in to early prenatal care.

NFP PurpleOne of the members of the Healthy Babies Coalition working on these goals is Nurse Family Partnership (NFP). These loyal nurses of NFP are concerned above all about the relationships between mothers, children, and nurses. They are now performing home visits in Waco for first time mothers who qualify for these benefits. The goals of the partnership are to improve pregnancy outcomes, improve child health and cognitive development, and improve economic self-sufficiency. These nurses want to serve the moms and children of Waco in their home environments where they are the most comfortable. Not only does this eliminate the money and time of traveling for the new moms, but it also allows the nurses to teach and guide moms in an intimate setting through healthy pregnancies, labor, delivery, and motherhood.

As a young mother, Andrea noticed that “There isn’t a class in school that tells you how to raise a kid. Nurse- Family Partnership is like an instruction book that gives you the knowledge and positive encouragement to raise a baby.”

Fathers are just as important as mothers in the pregnancy and child-rearing stages of life, and NFP honors the fathers of these families tremendously. Research shows that families who participate in NFP have a 68% increase in having a father in the household because this program knows the major benefits to fathers and children in that growing relationship.

As of this writing, the nurses in McLennan County plan to start visiting homes in January 2016. They are taking referrals for first time mothers who are due after March 10, 2016 and/or before the end of their 28th week of pregnancy. In addition, mothers must qualify for Medicaid or fall below 185% of the poverty line.

Nurse-Family Partnership of Waco is located at 120 Hillcrest Medical Boulevard #303, phone number 254-202-1130. Visit their website in English and Spanish at http://www.nursefamilypartnership.org/ to hear more personal stories and testimonies of the thankful mothers who have participated thus far and to connect with the program in Waco.

Alyssa HollowayAlyssa Holloway moved to Waco in August 2015 from Santa Barbara, California and loves her community. She is studying for her Masters in Social Work at Baylor University, and is working with the Healthy Babies Coalition at the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District. She enjoys baking, running, being outside, reading, laughing, going to church, and traveling.

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.

The Prosper Waco Community Engagement Council Is Growing!

By Christina Helmick

Earlier this month, the Prosper Waco added two new South Waco members to the Community Engagement Council. 1SG (retired) Leonard Montelongo Jr. and Sarah Guajardo, both born and raised in Waco, are grassroots community members who believe that by engaging the community, the Prosper Waco initiative will move forward with the community’s voice guiding the work.

montelongo1SG (Ret.) Leonard Montelongo Jr. attended all Waco ISD schools growing up and is a graduate of University High School. He served in the United States Army just shy of 23 years and is currently the Senior Army Instructor for JROTC at University High School. He is a member of the American GI Forum and the American Legion of McLennan County. He earned his bachelor’s degree from National Louis University from McLean, Virginia.

guajardoSarah Guajardo is a lifelong resident of South Waco and graduated from University High School. She currently works as an administrative assistant at the Mercedes Benz of Waco. She received her certificates in secretarial training and medical secretary from McLennan Community College. Sarah currently serves as a member and former secretary of La Benemerita Sociedad Mutualista Mexicana De Jornaleros (Mutualista) and as a member of Mighty Wind Worship Center. While living in South Waco, she has served as president of Southern Little League and as a volunteer for the Heart of Texas Young Marines. Sarah is a proud mother of four and grandmother of two.

Both Leonard and Sarah, and the rest of Community Engagement Council, are actively engaging the community through house meetings and various community events. For example, Leonard and Sarah attended University High School’s Bootcamp event to connect with parents and talk with them about Prosper Waco’s Get Help Locally resource guide. The council also participated in the Central Texas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Family Expo event held on Feb. 13. The Family Expo, which had more than 1,500 attendees, gave the Community Engagement Council the opportunity to meet, connect and interact with community members from all over the Waco area. The council is actively planning house meetings, which will allow residents of Waco to join small, intimate conversations to talk about the issues they face in their own community and about how as a community we can work to address the goals of the Prosper Waco initiative.

Needless to say, the Prosper Waco Community Engagement Council is working hard to make sure the community’s voice is guiding the work of the Prosper Waco initiative. If you’re looking for a way to have your voice heard or to get involved in the Prosper Waco initiative, contacting the Community Engagement Council is the way to go! Email community@prosperwaco.org and someone from the council will email you back as soon as they can. You can also call 254-741-0081 and the Prosper Waco team will connect you to the Community Engagement Council member for the area of Waco you live in.

I’ll end with some thoughts from Ruth Graham, one of Prosper Waco’s East Waco Community Engagement Council members. Her thoughts below reflect on engaging the community in general, and how each of us can keep in mind how to best connect with those we are trying to serve.

“Change is possible. I’ve seen it firsthand. Results are achievable with the right ingredients. Who are we to expect them to change without changing our own mindsets? What are we exhibiting in our speed and body language to this group we’re offering to help? How do we listen to and engage those whom we do not know or possibly fear? Let us start with genuine sincerity. Let us add a heap of acceptance. Let us fill it with diversity. Let us roll in the lovely accents. Let us remix the color styles. Let the ingredients in us inspire the change for the results we desire to achieve.”

We’re social! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get the latest and greatest updates on the Prosper Waco initiative, the hard work our community partners are doing for Waco and the great work of the Prosper Waco Community Engagement Council!

Christina HelmickChristina Helmick is the director of communication at Prosper Waco. She is a recent graduate of Baylor University with a BA in Journalism, Public Relations & New Media. Originally she is from Washington, D.C., but has stayed in Waco post-graduation.  She is an active mentor at J.H. Hines Elementary School, enjoys spending time with her family and watching Baylor football. Sic ’em Bears!

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.


Youth Get Work Experience. Employers get Subsidized Employees. CIS Subsidized Work Experience Program is a Win-Win!

by Kayla Zollinger

Many people think of Communities In Schools of the Heart of Texas as a school based program where our staff are positioned at campuses throughout the Heart of Texas serving K-12. What many people do not realize is that CIS-HOT also serves youth and young adults who are often referred to as “opportunity youth.” Opportunity youth are typically defined as individuals 16-24 year-olds that are not working or in school. In partnership with Workforce Solutions for the Heart of Texas, CIS-HOT aims to connect with opportunity youth and work with them to achieve their education and employment goals.

PrintOne of the opportunities offered to our 16-24 year olds participants is a Subsidized Work Experience. Through this experience, CIS-HOT hires youth, provides them with new-hire training, and places them in the community at a host-worksite. These host-worksites provide the youth with a job description, daily tasks, and supervise them for 15-20 hours per week for about ten weeks, or up to 300 hours. Youth participating in the Paid Work Experience Program receive an hourly wage paid by CIS-HOT as well as support from an individual Career Coach. Each Career Coach meets with the host employer and participant weekly to discuss the participant’s performance in order to highlight strengths and identify areas of growth to prepare them for future employment success.

At CIS-HOT we find that so many of the youth entering our program have a strong desire to work, and want to learn to be reliable employees, but they often need the support of a caring adult to encourage and guide the learning of soft-skills. These youth and young adults are often juggling multiple responsibilities like working toward a GED, attending credit recovery classes, parenting, searching for employment, and even probation. This program offers them the opportunity to attend class, gain job skills, and earn a wage while being surrounded with the CIS-HOT community of support.

Caritas WorksiteThrough this program, we have seen numerous changes in our participants including higher self-esteem, more confidence, greater communication, increased punctuality, and improved initiative. Our team has found that this opportunity to learn, work, and earn a wage has kick-started the participants’ intrinsic drive to be successful. Many participants have now moved on to new permanent employment opportunities, using the work experience as an important resume item, and several have enrolled in post-secondary education. We have seen the work experience ignite confidence in youth and young adults and awaken the realization that their goals are within reach.

One of the most integral components of the Paid Work Experience Program at CIS-HOT is the support and investment in the lives of the youth participants by our host employers. Our host employers act as the main supervisors for the youth participants throughout their Work Experience. On a daily basis, these host employers offer professional advice to our participants, and thus doing, contribute to the successful future of these participants. Host employers can be from the public, private, or non-profit business sectors and have the opportunity to hire participants for any open positions following the completion of the Work Experience. Recently, we asked some of our host employers what they would say to other employers in the community about participating as a worksite and here is what they said:

“It is a great experience not only for the student, but also for the employer!”

“I’d say, ‘Do it!’ This program is fantastic for both the student and the employer. To be the first example and somewhat shape and improve a child’s future is an awesome feeling! Both participants walk away feeling accomplished. It’s a Win-Win situation!”

“The CIS Staff is great to work with, and very knowledgeable in what they are doing. The applicants they send us are wanting to change their circumstances.”

guys at mixerCIS-HOT is so thankful for the numerous employers who are currently hosting participants and who have acted as hosts in the past! You are truly valued and your investment in our youth and young adults will impact them for years to come!

If you are interested in serving as a host employer for the Communities In Schools of the Heart of Texas Work Experience Program or if you would like to recommend a young adult to the program, please contact Kayla Zollinger.


Kayla ZollingerKayla Zollinger is the Field Coordinator for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Program at Communities In Schools of the Heart of Texas. A resident of Waco since 2008, she has earned both a BBA, and an MSW from Baylor University. She is an avid Baylor Football fan with a passion for working with youth and young adults in her community. You can contact Kayla at 254-640-7299 or kzollinger@cis-hot.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.