Successful Diabetes Study Results May Inspire Insurance Companies to Cover Prevention

By Crystal Hernandez

Sometimes good things just keep getting better, and it may have for the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program. You may remember that it wasn’t very long ago when I shared with you that those at risk for developing type 2 diabetes are not necessarily destined to a lifetime of checking blood sugar levels and managing medications. Perhaps you recall hearing about the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program and being excited and encouraged to know the year long program that has been proven to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes in those that have pre-diabetes by 58% and by 71% in those over the age of 60 is right here in Waco, available to you.

Well, you weren’t the only one excited. It appears that insurance companies were also intrigued by the possibilities of this program. That’s why the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) funded a 3-year study to see just what the results and cost savings would be if this program did indeed do what it said it would do.

They watched as 17 YMCA’s implemented this program and they awaited the results of the 8,000 folks that were served during the 3-year study. And do you know what they found out? Medicare estimated cost savings in a 15-month period to be $2650 per person when compared to similar beneficiaries not in the program. This is the first time a CMMI pilot has been proven to lower the incidence and reduce the cost of type 2 diabetes.

There are several gems that are a result of this study. One is that those in the Waco community have a program available to them that can help them receive the same results as the 8,000 people in this study. Another jewel here is that this has begun a discussion and started the process, although it may be lengthy, of making this program a covered benefit to those insured by Medicare.  This could also mean that other insurance companies may follow Medicare and Medicaid’s lead. Perhaps it even means that in the future other prevention programs may be covered benefits.  How nice it would be to know your desire for better health is supported by your insurance company.

crystal hernandez2This Act Locally Waco blog post was written by Crystal Hernandez. Crystal is the Chronic Disease Specialist for the Waco Family YMCA. She received her degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion from the University of Memphis. She and husband Shawn are blessed to be the parents of 4 beautiful children. In her free time, she loves hitting the pavement and pounding out a good run.

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.



Learn How To Become A Brain Builder!

By Christina Helmick

Have you heard the saying “there is an app for that?” I have an app that automatically texts people when I am in a certain area, another app that keeps track of the steps I’ve taken, and an app that organizes my grocery list based upon food categories. What about an app that provides daily activities for adults to do with children to help prepare them for Kindergarten? Well, there is an app for that too!

vroom screen shotThe Prosper Waco Kindergarten Readiness work group, along with other Prosper Waco community partners like the Cameron Park Zoo and the Mayborn Museum, are promoting a free parenting tool called Vroom. Vroom, which you can download on any smartphone, tablet or computer, provides you with daily, age-appropriate brain building activities to do with children ages 0 to 5. Each activity comes with science-based background information that allows adults to understand how that specific activity is building the brain development of the child.  To download the app, go to the App Store and search for “Vroom” or “Daily Vroom.”

If there is someone you know that would enjoy practicing brain building with their infant, toddler or preschooler and doesn’t have access to the Internet, give us a call at 254-741-0081 to receive physical copies of the Vroom activities.

Depending upon if you are an early childhood care provider, a community organization or a community member who wants to raise awareness about Kindergarten Readiness, there are different ways you can promote Vroom.

family_flyerFor example, if you are an early childhood care provider or an organization that directly deals with children ages 0 to 5 and their families, you can distribute information to your families about Vroom and hang posters around your facility! If you are a community organization like the City of Waco, you can hang posters around your workplace and include a Vroom flyer in your welcome packets to new hires. If you want to help promote Vroom on an individual level, bring Vroom flyers with you to meetings you attend and direct people to the Vroom tab on the Prosper Waco website so they can learn more about the app! To learn more ways to help promote Vroom within our community and the organizations working together to promote the app, visit our website.

Everyone in our community can use #Vroom254 to encourage brain building activities!

This free parenting tool is one element to addressing the Prosper Waco Kindergarten Readiness goal of increasing the percentage of Kindergarten ready students by 50 percent by 2020.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to Christina Helmick [254-741-0081] with questions about Vroom or how you can help promote the free parenting tool!

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 for more information.

For more about Vroom see this recent Prosper Waco talk show that focuses on the app and brain building…




Important Summer Tips for Inner-City Youth from Tupac, Outkast, & Drake

By Krissica L. Harper

As an advocate, college admissions recruiter, and educator in the areas of youth and student development, I have noticed that a large percentage of inner-city high school students are not aware of the things needed to start their collegiate, educational, and career pursuits. Like them,  I was a kid in the inner-city. Low-income and “at-risk” were a few words that the school system used to label me. Having a single parent household and incarcerated parent is/was tough. I am forever grateful to my mother and “the village” around me that introduced my sibling and me to a variety of different summer programs and more. Some of those included athletic camps, educational tours, and views from the 6. (kidding on that last one, ha ha) But, the KEY to those experiences was just that- I EXPERIENCED them. I heard once that there wasn’t so much an “educational gap” as there was an “access and skills (experience)” gap. Those experiences changed the trajectory of my life.

Finances play a huge role in accessing educational/informational opportunities for inner-city youth. Growing up, my mother worked multiple jobs so that we could afford to participate in extracurricular activities. There were also some activities that we could not do because of the costs associated with them. I know how it feels to want to do something that other kids did, but with money being the deciding factor, not be able to do it. I also recall going back to school in the fall and the teacher asking for everyone to stand and tell the class what they did over the summer. It is not exciting when you’re the kid that does not have much to tell everyone. On many occasions, reluctantly, I made up worthy-enough stories that would match up with my classroom peers. Not a good feeling.

Below I have listed a few tips on how inner-city youth can search and access some EXPERIENCES that can help them achieve results in and out of the classroom. I want to help take our youth and their interests, gifts, and talents to new heights this summer! I also want them to be the kids with exciting stories to tell the class or write about next school year!



NOW to my young, hip, Snap Chattin’ young’uns — there will be some free programs around your city. If you are on social media, go ahead and hit that hashtag. What are you interested in? Maybe there are some events that coincide with that exact thing. See if there are a few hashtags that you can hit on Twitter and Instagram. Sites like Eventbrite,  Meetup  and Act Locally Waco list local and statewide events and happenings that you can attend this summer. Get up, get out, and Remember: EXPERIENCES CAN SHAPE YOUR REALITY.

Like my guys from Outkast once said,


Young Outkast

“you need to git up, git out and git somethin
Don’t let the days of your life pass by
You need to git up, git out and git somethin
Don’t spend all your time tryin to get high
You need git up, git out and git somethin
How will you make it if you never even try
You need to git up, git out and git somethin
Cuz you and I got to do for you and I”


2. R-E-A-D

Yes, R-E-A-D in the summer. READ! The summer is an amazing time to reflect on things that happened during the school year. Often times we want to get away from anything pertaining to school during the summer. However, why not enjoy the sun, enjoy the swimming pools, and GET AHEAD? Take the time to expand your knowledge. Being in the inner-city there are some negative distractions that could impact your life in a major way. What if you decided that you won’t let those distractions hinder you from growing? Les Brown, Eric Thomas, and Gary Vaynerchuck are a few folks that I want you to get acquainted with this summer.

I never forget the words of 2PAC that speak to inner-city youth like you and myself-

Young Tupac Shakur

Young Tupac Shakur

“You try to plant somethin in the conrete, y’knowhatImean?
If it GROW, and the and the rose petal got all kind of
scratches and marks, you not gon’ say, “[DANG], look at
all the scratches and marks on the rose that grew from concrete”
You gon’ be like, “[DANG]! A rose grew from the concrete?!”
Same thing with me, y’knahmean? I grew out of all of this
Instead of sayin, “[DANG], he did this, he did this,”
just be like, “[DANG]! He grew out of that? He came out of that?”


Young Aubrey Drake Graham3. Drake was right…

…At the end of this summer, you want to be able to say, “Getting things done around here.”  #SummerSixteen 😉

#GetPAPER –  “Passionate About Purpose Expecting Results”


Krissica HarperKrissica Harper is a youth and student development advocate, college recruiter, and educator. She conducts and curates workshops, events, and more.  Here goal is to inspire others to live with purpose and pursue their passions.  This post first appeared on her own blog which you can follow at  Connect with Krissica on social media @KrissicaHarper.  Any questions? Contact her directly:

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.


The Light We Can See in North Waco

by Allison Allen

Living in my north Waco neighborhood has its challenges especially if you’ve read the headlines of house fires and a recent homicide. As a neighbor it is heartbreaking to know that loss and destruction are literally outside my front door. I struggle to reconcile these realities with my personal experience of living here which is overwhelmingly positive, one of life and hope and connections with neighbors.

It reminds me (a little) of the Nobel Prize winning novel, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. The story is set in occupied France during World War II in the midst of loss and destruction. The novel centers on a blind, French girl and a German boy whose paths eventually, miraculously cross. Their meeting toward the end of the book is the “light” that cannot be seen in the fog of war. And their brief friendship leads to life, hope and connections.

A bright light going on right now in north Waco is the possibility of a REAL grocery store at the corner of 15th and Colcord, Jubilee Food Market. A store with actual live fruits and vegetables at actual grocery store prices! This may sound mundane and commonplace, but when the closest grocery store is over two miles away and you don’t have a car, it’s big news. And, it’s what the neighbors in north Waco are asking for, and all of Waco can help make it happen.  (Click here for details:

And, there are other everyday lights that I see all around my little corner of our city. Neighborhood kids of all colors playing together outside all summer long, people walking everywhere and stopping to say hello to neighbors, teenagers going door to door selling candy to raise money for their schools, my son getting his best haircut from our neighbor, neighbors mowing each others’ yards, tenants becoming homeowners on every street, and on and on the lights shine…

Sirens come then go
A fine balance to be sure
This life in Waco

Allison AllenAllison Allen has lived in north Waco with her family for 14 years. She’s a mother to 2 above average children, a wife to a pretty good husband and a property manager of some very clean and affordable apartments in the downtown area.

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.






Four-year College or bust? No way! Other paths just as valuable…

By Scott Bland

For more than 30 years, our educational system has done a disservice to our kids by teaching them that the primary path to a successful future is completing a four-year degree program after high school graduation. There are many unintended consequences of this educational track. The primary consequence is that kids who have no desire to attend a college or university feel as though they are inferior or somehow not as valuable as their peers who move on to advanced degrees. These children are not taught or shown other paths that are just as valuable and lead to rewarding careers as those requiring college degrees.

The construction industry is made up of careers that pay salaries that are in line with or higher than many careers requiring a college degree.  As the construction industry has become more and more technical, these jobs in the plumbing, electrical, and heating and air conditioning industries require the completion of advanced certification programs. Achieving these certifications requires just as much dedication, commitment, and maturity as completing a typical four-year degree program. In our Central Texas Area, the starting salaries for licensed plumbers, electricians, and heating and air conditioning technicians fall into a similar range as starting salaries for college graduates.  After completing their certification program, students in these fields can expect to start out earning between $35,000 and $45,000 per year.

Because there is such a shortage of qualified workers in the construction industry, most companies are hiring students who are still in the certification process and putting them to work gaining valuable experience in apprentice positions.  Students who come out of high school ready to begin a career can use this option as a means to help pay their way through their studies and not incur the crippling debt that so many four-year degree students are saddled with upon graduation. For children from low-income families, this is a viable path to breaking the cycle of poverty that has become generational for many of our students.

A secondary consequence of the “four-year degree or bust” model is the creation of a massive shortage of the skilled workers necessary to create housing, commercial projects, and public infrastructure – and those are just a few of the industries that are dealing with this terrible shortfall in labor. While it is a wonderful thing to have lots of English professors and accountants, we aren’t going to be able to rely on our tax guy to fix our plumbing when the pipes in our house start to leak.

And that brings me to an unintended consequence that is impossible to quantify. I firmly believe that there are a great number of people working in careers they hate.  They wish they had spent their time and money in other pursuits, but they were taught from Kindergarten on that to be a successful person in our society you had to have that four-year degree. There was a stigma placed on careers that didn’t require that college degree. When you look at how many or our greatest entrepreneurs either never went to college or started and dropped out to pursue their passion, it is obvious that there are many paths to being a success. Our children need to be exposed to those paths, so they can make the best choices for them.  That way maybe the next Steve Jobs doesn’t have to drop out of college and work out of a garage to achieve his or her dreams. And, yes, Jobs was a college dropout along with Mark Zuckerberg, Russell Simmons, Brad Pitt, Ted Turner, Bill Gates, and even Oprah to name just a few.

Scott BlandScott Bland was born and raised in Waco.  He is an alumnus of Baylor University. He worked for Highland Homes in the Dallas area from 1998 to 2001, then joined the United States Secret Service as a Special Agent after the 9/11 attacks.  He retired his commission in late 2006 to return to Waco and take over the family business, Jim Bland Construction, where he has served as Owner and President of the company for the last 10 years. He is currently the President of the Heart of Texas Builder’s Association as well as a member of the Board of Directors for the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce.

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.