Applications available for Texas Reskilling grant at MCC

By Candace Kelm

College students affected by COVID-19 can now apply for Texas Reskilling grant funds through McLennan Community College to help get back on track to earning a certificate or degree. MCC was awarded $112,500 in funding by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to help 75 students who stopped attending classes due to the pandemic and wanted to continue their education. 

The program is also available to displaced workers affected by COVID-19 needing to gain new skills to re-enter the workforce. More than 70 of MCC’s degree and certificate programs are approved for the grant funds, and eligible students will receive $500-$2,500 per semester to be enrolled either full or part time.

To be eligible, students must:

*       Be a Texas resident eligible for in-state tuition;

*       Have filed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA);

*       Have financial need and be eligible for federal Title IV aid (students enrolled in short-term non-eligible Title IV workforce credential programs, but who are otherwise Title IV eligible, may be included);

*       Have affirmed they were affected by COVID-19;

*       Be enrolled in an eligible undergraduate or short-term workforce credential program either full or part time;

*       Have not been enrolled in an accredited postsecondary institution during the Fall 2020 semester or previous six months; and

*       Must be within 12 months of completing their credential program.

Interested students should complete the online application. Registration is still open for those wishing to continue their education this spring. Spring Second 8-Week classes begin March 15. For more information or to enroll for spring classes, contact Highlander Central at 254-299-8622 or highlandercentral@mclennan.edu.

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 Ferrell Foster at ferrell@prosperwaco.org.

MCC awarded $112,500 Texas Reskilling Grant

By Candice Kelm

McLennan Community College has been awarded $112,500 as part of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Texas Reskilling Support Fund Grant program.

The new program aims to help Texans affected by COVID-19, including displaced workers needing to gain new skills to re-enter the workforce and also to support students who left their pursuit of higher education before receiving a credential. MCC’s award is part of $18.1 million awarded by THECB to 49 Texas institutions. 

MCC has designated the funds to serve up to 75 students who previously stopped and would like to return to MCC to complete a certificate or associate’s degree. More than 70 of the college’s programs are approved for the program. Eligible students will receive $500-$2,500 per semester and can be enrolled either full or part-time.

To be eligible, the student must:

·       Be a Texas residents eligible for in-state tuition;

·       Have filed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA);

·       Have financial need and be eligible for federal Title IV aid (including students enrolled in short-term non-eligible Title IV workforce credential programs, but who are otherwise Title IV eligible);

·       Have affirmed they were affected by COVID-19;

·       Be enrolled in an eligible undergraduate or short-term workforce credential program either full or part-time;

·       Have not been enrolled in an accredited postsecondary institution in the previous academic semester or previous six months; and

·       Must be within 12 months of completing their credential program.

Students wishing to enroll for the spring semester and interested in the program should complete the Reskilling Fund Application during the advising process.

For more information about the program or to enroll for spring classes, contact Highlander Central at 254-299-8622 or highlandercentral@mclennan.edu

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 Ferrell Foster at ferrell@prosperwaco.org.

MCC continues with modified class formats for spring semester

By Candice Kelm

McLennan Community College’s has remained diligent in monitoring the restrictions set by federal, state, and local governments as the COVID-19 pandemic continues across the globe.

MCC faculty and staff returned to campus Monday following the winter break and are preparing for the beginning of the spring semester Jan. 11. Guidelines established before the start of the Fall 2020 semester to ensure a safe environment for students, faculty, staff, and all campus visitors will remain in place for the foreseeable future. These guidelines include smaller class sizes, face covering and social distancing requirements and increased cleaning procedures. 

Additionally, the college will continue to offer classes in blended/hybrid and online formats along with some traditional face-to-face skills-based classes. Students in blended/hybrid classes experience instruction both in a traditional classroom setting and online formats, including through videoconferencing. These classes will be accessible to all students through MCC’s online platforms.

Campus computer labs will continue to support students with technology needs, and most services will continue to be offered through online and in-person formats.

For more information about the College’s COIVD-19 response, visit www.mclennan.edu/covid.

Individuals interested in becoming a MCC student this spring should visit https://www.mclennan.edu/admissions/become-a-student/index.html . Registration continues through Jan. 9 with most classes beginning Jan. 11. Second 8-Week Class registration will continue through March 14 with classes beginning March 15. For more information, contact Highlander Central at 299-8622 or highlandercentral@mclennan.edu.

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 Ferrell Foster at ferrell@prosperwaco.org.

New MCC project aimed at increasing success of Hispanic and underserved students

By Olivia Evans

McLennan Community College has a long-standing focus on providing quality education to under-served populations in Central Texas. The College will continue those efforts with the help of a $3 million Title V grant from the Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) Program of the U.S. Department of Education. The grant will fund a project entitled First Year Focus: Developing Academic and Co-Curricular Student Support Structures to Improve First Year Outcomes. The College will receive about $600,000 annually over a five-year period.

With this project, McLennan will work to increase course completion, graduation, and transfer rates of Hispanic, low-income, and first-time-in-college students. The primary goal is “to build innovative support structures to create enriching academic opportunities that foster student success.”

“When students drop out or stop out, most of the time it’s not because they can’t do the work. It’s because life gets in the way. Providing more support will help them overcome the barriers that derail their progress,” says Paula Unger, McLennan sociology professor and grant project director.

To serve McLennan’s Hispanic and other underserved students, the program will implement a three-pronged approach to supporting first-year students: student engagement, supplemental instruction, and revamping the freshman orientation course, Learning Framework. This restructuring will focus on academic support services, peer leadership, career planning, financial literacy, and cultural competency.

“Our Title V efforts are about equity and meeting students where they are,” says Unger.

The First-Year Focus Team is confident that these newly-implemented programs and resources will be beneficial not only to Hispanic students in achieving academic success, but to all first year and returning McLennan students as well.

“As a College, we can’t progress if those who need a little extra help are ignored or left behind. Our community needs everyone’s gifts,” says Unger.


Olivia Evans is an intern in McLennan Community College’s Marketing and Communications office. She is a senior at Baylor University studying Public Relations and Corporate Communications. Olivia is a Houston, Texas native and plans to work in sports and entertainment digital marketing.

MCC Adult Education and Literacy: Free classes to help adults develop job skills

By Olivia Evans

More and more jobs are requiring a technical certificate or a college degree. To meet the demands for a more skilled workforce, McLennan Community College offers a variety of classes and programs to help adults in the Waco community develop skills to match the jobs available in the area. These free classes served over 900 adult students in the 2019-20 academic year. MCC’s Adult Education and Literacy (AEL) program offers various pathways and classes including:

  • High School Equivalency (HSE) Preparation Classes (formerly GED) improve basic skills in preparation for the High School Equivalency Test.
  • English as a Second Language (ESL) Classes equip English language learners with the skills needed to advance in their careers and participate fully in their communities.
  • Transition Classes help students improve their workplace and/or college preparedness skills.
  • Career Pathway Classes provide college and workplace readiness in an in-demand career field.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the AEL program has continued its commitment to help the Waco community achieve their educational and career goals by making swift changes to adjust to the new circumstances. “Within three weeks, our small staff completely switched to remote classes using the Zoom platform,” said AEL Instructor Margie De Laurell.

Currently, all 30 classes offered are held virtually. Despite these unprecedented times, the AEL staff is dedicated to ensuring that individuals in Waco, who are looking to advance themselves in their careers and education, are able to do so. Student success includes adjustments and additional learning not just from students but from instructors as well. “English-language learners and many of our instructors learned how to use their devices like never before! Digital literacy has always been part of the curriculum, but thanks to the pandemic, we all got a crash course,” said De Laurell.

AEL classes are free and open to anyone over the age of 18. There is no cost to community members other than time and dedication. All of the AEL students are extremely hardworking and exemplify the work ethic and positive mental outlook that is required to succeed under very challenging circumstances, including a global pandemic.

“As instructors, we are constantly inspired and motivated by our learners’ perseverance, courage, and resourcefulness,” said De Laurell.

For more information about registration AEL programs, call (254) 299-8777 or visit www.mclennan.edu/adult-education-programs/.


Olivia Evans is an intern in McLennan Community College’s Marketing and Communications office. She is a senior at Baylor University studying Public Relations and Corporate Communications. Olivia is a Houston, Texas native and plans to work in sports and entertainment digital marketing.

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.orgfor more information.

Planning and Precautions enable MCC sports to resume practice in preparation for competition

By Garret Sulak

Campus was dotted with color as students, faculty, and staff returned to McLennan Community College for the first day of fall classes on Monday, Aug. 24. In accordance with rules set to protect everyone on campus, various colors of masks were on display and social distancing guidelines provided some extra breathing room while sitting in class or walking on campus.

MCC’s campus showed signs of life for the first time since March when classes and services moved online. The return to MCC’s campus has provided at least a slight sense of normalcy during this pandemic. Classes are being held on campus with precautions and athletes are allowed to practice while also taking special precautions.

Head men’s golf coach and history professor Vince Clark is adjusting to the new guidelines as he holds in-person classes and prepares his golf team to go on the road and compete this fall. Clark explained the masks are a “necessary nuisance” during lecture, but they have not prevented him from projecting his voice to the class. However, he said masks do prevent him from reading his students’ body language.

“After classes moved online and I started performing to an empty lecture hall in the spring and summer, I realized how much I enjoy my students’ company,” Clark said. “I really missed them, so I am glad to have them back with me in the room. I also learned that before the pandemic I relied upon reading faces.  Now all I can see are eyes above masks. I reckon I need to learn to read eyes.”

As a coach, Clark is also tasked with keeping his athletes safe while practice continues in preparation for events this fall. He explained that his team wears masks when entering the Cottonwood Creek or Bear Ridge golf courses for practice. Then they maintain social distance out on the course or on the range. The team is also able to isolate as seven of the nine players live in a duplex. Clark and his golf squad are ready to compete this fall and he is confident they can do so safely.

“We are grateful to our campus leadership for trusting us to go on the road to compete,” Clark said. “We have all already promised each other that we will take every appropriate precaution while traveling. This fall any of us can come down with the virus anytime and anywhere, but we are convinced that we can increase our chances for staying healthy by being smart and following the various guidelines. We are like a family under the same roof, which also makes the logistics of dealing with COVID easier.”

Allowing athletes and coaches back on campus to practice and eventually compete required extensive planning by MCC athletic director Shawn Trochim. She explained she spent about 8-12 hours per day from May until the first day of classes formulating a plan that included input from other athletic staff, athletic trainers, other athletic directors in the conference and the emergency operations team.

As part of the plan to hold practices, athletes are screened each day prior to practice to ensure they do not have a fever and are showing no symptoms of the virus. The plan also includes measures to take if an athlete tests positive. In this case, athletes and teams can quarantine in their duplex. In addition, to the use of masks and social distancing, bottles were purchased for each athlete to eliminate the use of shared-use water coolers.

When all sports resume competition in the spring, Trochim believes one of the main drawbacks will be that athletes might not be able to go support the other teams on campus. However, she believes the pandemic has taught everyone how to better adjust to changing situations.

“The pandemic teaches us to be fluid and accommodating all of the time,” Trochim explained. “The leadership team is committed to athletics here at McLennan and as with everything this could change. I, as the leader of the athletic department, have to be prepared to make tough decisions.”

Just like the opening of campus, the return of sports signals a return to some sort of normalcy. With precautions in place, MCC is committed to returning to the court or field so athletes have the chance to compete.

“Competition is a big part of the games we play,” Clark said. “Competition is what our athletes, who are gifted with great talent, train to do. Life will feel more normal for athletes, coaches, families, and fans when we get back to competing in sports.” 


Garret Sulak is an athletics marketing graduate assistant at McLennan Community College. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University, where he interned for two years with LSU athletic communications. He enjoys playing golf, fishing, hunting, and attending sport events. He is an avid fan of the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers. He is currently a graduate student at Baylor pursuing a master’s degree in sport management.​

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.

Why MCC should be an option for education this fall

By Phillip Ericksen

The future looks uncertain for many amid the pandemic – especially the high school graduates of 2020. Questions remain about course formats, housing situations, and the campus life that makes all colleges educational and social hubs. 

Fortunately, community colleges are uniquely suited for these times. In a recent column for the website Community College Daily, the president of Rockland Community College, in Suffern, N.Y., said community colleges are “the best strategic choice for fall enrollment.”

“Community colleges not only offer a quality, affordable education close to home, they will actually be the best strategic option in the fall for many families — and not just those with limited resources as a result of the current economic conditions,” Dr. Michael A. Baston writes. 

Many of these reasons are applicable to McLennan Community College, right here in Waco. 

  1. A quality education is guaranteed at MCC this fall. Faculty and staff plan on safely accommodating students on campus and online while maintaining educational standards: faculty members who are experts in their fields, courses that prepare students for the workforce or to transfer to four-year colleges, and organizations where students can learn and meet with their peers. 
  2. MCC is proud of affordable tuition rates that will keep student debt to a minimum. The many benefits students enjoy at MCC include free access to the campus counseling center, fitness center, tutoring services, and much more. 
  3. Staying close to home is a benefit for those looking to be near their jobs and families. Advisors direct students to the best course options, which include online courses, 8-week courses, and more. 

Find out how MCC can be a great fit for you or someone in your family. Fill out a Request for Information form, or if you’d like to have a virtual Zoom meeting with a recruiter, email the Highlander Central office at highlandercentral@mclennan.edu.


Phillip Ericksen is marketing and communications specialist at McLennan Community College. For about four years, he was a journalist at the Waco Tribune-Herald covering higher education and local government. He enjoys following the news, reading books and drinking coffee. As a San Antonio native, he is an avid fan of Mexican food and the Spurs basketball team. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Baylor University.  He can be reached at pericksen@mclennan.edu.

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.

Despite difficult times – Lots of great memories from Spring 2020 at MCC!

By Phillip Ericksen

Life has been tough lately. We stay in our residences as much as possible, all while trying to help our neighbors in need, health professionals on the front lines, local businesses that need our support, and those who simply need our friendship.

At McLennan Community College, a major transition was underway in March as courses were moved online. We are extremely proud of students, faculty, and staff who have made this possible.

In these difficult times, it might be nice to remember some of the success stories MCC has seen recently, from special events we celebrated, to honors we’ve received. We hope to resume these special moments once it is safe to do so.

Jan. 22 – At the start of each semester, the Vendor Fair attracts organizations from around McLennan County to visit campus, set up booths, and meet our students. The connections made at Vendor Fair expose students to on- and off-campus resources and organizations that assist students.

Feb. 20 – Grammy Award-winning music producer SymbolycOne returned to MCC – his alma mater – to discuss his craft with students. He received an Associate of Applied Science degree in Audio Engineering in 1997, and is now one of the top music producers in the industry, working with legends such as Madonna, Gladys Knight, Beyonce, Kanye West, and many more.

Feb. 26 – Texas Higher Education Commissioner Harrison Keller visited campus for important discussions with MCC leadership. They spoke about the future of education and innovation in Texas, and how community colleges play a role in educating our state.

Enjoying the annual “Hearts in the Arts Theatre Gala.

Feb. 27 – The 18th Annual Hearts in the Arts Theatre Gala hosted by the MCC Foundation was highlighted by a student production of “Chicago” at the Ball Performing Arts Center. Many community leaders attended this special event, which benefits student scholarship funds and expands access to higher education in McLennan County.

April 2 – MCC donates emergency supplies and loans equipment to local health care professionals treating patients of COVID-19. Four ventilators, 10 hospital beds, and boxes of masks, gloves, and gowns were delivered to hospitals and clinics as the College supported these essential leaders on the front lines.

April 23 – The Waco Independent School District presented MCC with a Rise Award for Outstanding Community Partners. Partnerships in dual-credit courses, faculty-staff collaborations, and special events were highlighted as President Johnette McKown accepted the award on behalf of the College.

For the entire Spring semester, MCC has encouraged students to participate in the 2020 Census, stay safe through social distancing, and register for summer and fall courses. We are proud to play this role in our community.


Phillip Ericksen is the marketing and communications specialist at McLennan Community College. For about four years, he was a journalist at the Waco Tribune-Herald covering higher education and local government. He enjoys following the news, reading books and drinking coffee. As a San Antonio native, he is an avid fan of Mexican food and the Spurs basketball team. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Baylor University.  He can be reached at pericksen@mclennan.edu.

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.


 [CK1]

Classes, Food Pantry, Success Coaches and more still available for MCC students

By Phillip Ericksen

The spread of the COVID-19 virus into a pandemic has caused mass disruption to the world, and McLennan Community College is responding.

Here are a few of the major changes MCC has made to protect the well-being of students and keep them on their academic journeys.

  • Spring Break was extended for students for the week of March 16-20.
  • All courses are being conducted online for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester.
  • All resources that students would normally access on campus are now available in an online format.

These difficult decisions have been made with a top focus on students’ health and academic progress. While this semester is not ending according to the original plans, MCC is adapting to these circumstances behind the work of students, faculty, and staff.

For example, students may access free groceries from Paulanne’s Pantry through a curbside pickup system.

Success Coaches, which work directly with MCC students to help connect them with resources, are also still working and accepting new students.

All faculty and staff members are working to keep students on their academic paths. Most employees are working from home, in accordance with social distancing guidance. Professors have restructured courses into an online format, with many using the video conferencing software, Zoom. Bonnie Sneed, director of choirs at MCC, recorded a video of one of her classes onto the Sing at MCC Facebook page. Her students are remaining optimistic and encourage new students to enroll at MCC.

Students in need of WiFi access may go to Parking Lot E in front of the Highlands gym on campus between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. for free access. Users must remain in their cars or at least six feet away from other individuals. Campus Police are patrolling the area and are available by phone any time of the day or night at 254-299-8911. 

The City of Waco has also announced free WiFi opportunities in the parking lots of the Waco Convention Center and the four library branches.

MCC officials once again remind the entire Waco community to frequently wash their hands and practice social distancing. Preventing the spread of COVID-19 is of vital importance for the United States and the entire world. Implementing basic health and safety tips is the best way to stop the spread.

For all campus updates, visit www.mclennan.edu/covid. This site contains campus messages from President Johnette McKown, student resource updates, tips for online courses, and much more.


Phillip Ericksen is the marketing and communications specialist at McLennan Community College. For about four years, he was a journalist at the Waco Tribune-Herald covering higher education and local government. He enjoys following the news, reading books and drinking coffee. As a San Antonio native, he is an avid fan of Mexican food and the Spurs basketball team. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Baylor University.  He can be reached at pericksen@mclennan.edu.

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.

Never Stop Learning

By Kristi Pereira

When the staff from McLennan Community College’s Continuing Education Department left for Spring Break, none of us imagined the adjustments and decisions to which we would return due to COVID-19. I would venture to say most of our community can relate. As more news and facts were released about the virus, we made daily, sometimes hourly shifts with classes and trainings offered through Community Programs, Corporate Training, Health & Human Services, and the Highlander Ranch.

It would have been easy to default to frustration, but instead, like the rest of the faculty, staff, and administration, we chose to see this as an opportunity for growth and creativity. And while we have had to postpone and even cancel some classes, we have not halted our services to the community.

Community Programs continues to offer classes, but virtually, such as an online breadmaking class that was held this past weekend, Photoshop for Artistic Expression, Hand Lettering, and Pizza Making to name a few. Other instructors have come forward, and are in the process of developing and proposing online content for our community as well.  

Corporate Training has utilized an online format called Ed2Go as an alternative to face to face courses. They redirected any course that had an equivalent to Ed2Go, and created virtual courses where there was not. In fact, there are a number of courses and topic areas available on the Continuing Education Ed2Go page that anyone in the community can access. The page can be found at https://www.ed2go.com/mccandyou/ Furthermore, Health & Human Services has also transitioned both Nurse Aide and Medication Aide training to an online format and simulation lab training.

We want to commend all of you who have taken on the challenge of pivoting to virtual offerings for your students, clients, and customers. I think we’ve all learned a thing or two about technology and what it has to offer over the past few weeks. We hope you are able to find an opportunity during what might be a slower time to learn a new skill, or take advantage of some personal or professional development opportunities through McLennan Community College Continuing Education. In turn you will not only personally benefit, but you will be supporting local instructors, entrepreneurs, and business owners who provide Continuing Education courses for us. For those interested in participating in a Continuing Education class, you may register online at cereg.mclennan.edu, or give us a call at 254-299-8888.

MCC Continuing Education remains committed to our personal mission to engage, enrich, and educate our community. Overall, we encourage you to do the same, and never stop learning.


Kristi Pereira is the Coordinator of Community Programs for McLennan Community College Continuing Education. She and her husband, Hermann and two children have called Waco home for the past 13 years. Kristi loves Waco, reading, being outdoors, and spending quality time with family and friends.

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.