Falling Forward: Trust Fall Fails 

By Liz Ligawa

So, I’m chuckling as I begin writing this piece.  I am not sure if you have seen it, but a few months ago, a video clip offered some very necessary comic relief for me after a particularly difficult time finding the salve of sleep.  The clip was “Trust Fall Fail”.  If you are familiar with the team building activity of the Trust Fall, then you probably know where this is going.  However, if your experience is not like mine, (filled with an abundance of Ropes Courses, or team building activities), I’ll briefly explain. 

The Trust Fall is designed to strengthen teams by building trust among its members.  In this activity, trust is demonstrated by choosing to fall into the supportive strength of team members.  In the “Trust Fall Fail” video, however, this particular team member does not fall backward into the support of her team, but rather falls in the direction where her team is not: forward.  You can imagine how this ends, and also maybe why it’s kind of funny.  But I wonder if we exhibit this same misunderstanding sometimes- fall in the wrong direction.  Do we believe the solutions to the challenges we face exist in the “next big thing” in front of us, or do we recognize the truth of the solution being among us? 

One program coordinator who has tapped into the truth of solutions being among us is André Watkins.  Mr. Watkins is 6’1”, and holds up a 300lb frame.  He also holds up the Restorative Justice program at Waco High School.  By simply observing his stature, it may be an easy assumption to think he uses his brawn to achieve results, or at the least, compliance.  However, in observation of his steady demeanor, and measured approach, I discovered that neither intimidation, nor any other misuses of power, make it into his strategic toolkit.  The asset Mr. Watkins and his team focus on is strong relationships.  The tool he uses to promote strong relationships is trust. 

Trust is an interesting tool, right?  It is understandably not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about ways to strengthen schools, or organizations, but don’t let its low profile fool you.  Relational trust is a strong indicator of health in organizations, and teams (Costa, Roe, & Taillieu, 2001).  A 10-year study of more than 400 Chicago area elementary schools explored the relationship between trust and student achievement, and was able to “establish a connection between the level of trust in a school and student learning,” (Bryk & Schneider, 2003).  The Restorative Justice model of discipline is suitably positioned to contribute to strong relationships in learning environments because it employs practices which engender trust.

So, why is trust so important? Liz’s simple answer would be, “Because trust is a barometer for an organization’s climate, and it governs how we interact with one another.”  However, the researchers’ response will do just fine: “Trust fosters a set of organizational conditions…that make it more conducive for individuals to initiate and sustain the kinds of activities necessary to affect productivity….While trust alone does not guarantee success, schools with little or no trust have almost no chance of improving,” (Bryk & Schneider, 2003). 

The Restorative Justice model of discipline is in its third year at Waco High School.  You might be wondering about the effectiveness of André Watkins and his Restorative Justice team, or at least if having this program on campus has contributed to improvement.  Has this approach affected attendance, behavior, or academic scores in Waco High?  Is there a measurable reduction in discipline referrals, suspensions, or alternative education placements?  Has there been an increase in family engagement?  To all of these, I answer, “Absolutely!  And the supporting numbers are incredible.”  So, why am I not satisfying your need for numbers?  Well, because people are not numbers.  Those involved with this program are the ones to offer the truest sense of its efficacy. 

I hope I have encouraged enough curiosity in you to see how strong relationships promote strong schools, and organizations.  My favorite part about this research, and the efforts of Restorative Justice is that it cuts through the limiting ways we think about poverty: “A positive climate mediates the relationship between student and school SES background characteristics,” (Berkowitz, Moore, Astor, & Benbenishty, 2016).  But of course, André, and his team, have already figured this out.  How is your climate? 

liz ligawa - 2Elizabeth Ligawa is a recent graduate from Truett Theological Seminary, and the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, earning both her Master of Divinity, and Master of Social Work.  Though her prized role is being a mother to her dear son, Elijah, Liz has a love for encouraging people to come together in ways that engender healthy communities.  Her role as the Director of Community Engagement at Prosper Waco allows her the room to work in and among the many faces of her beloved Waco community. She may be reached at liz@prosperwaco.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.


Berkowitz, R., Moore, H., Astor, R.A., & Benbenishty, R. (2016). A research synthesis of the associations      between socio-economic background, inequality, school climate, and academic achievement.   Review of Educational Research, 20(10), 1-45.

Bryk, A.S., & Schneider, B. (2003). Trust in schools: A core resource for school reform. Educational       Leadership, 60(6), 40–45.

Costa, A.C., Roe, R.A., & Taillieu, T., (2001). Trust within teams: The relation with performance          effectiveness. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 10(3).

Stop Demand. Restore lives.

by Emily Mills

Women in poverty are still the most at risk for being exploited through the commercial sex industry. 89% of women in the commercial sex industry say they want out but have no other means of survival. The business of commercial sex is like any other business, the supply is based on demand. For over a decade Jesus Said Love has been reaching people within the industry, empowering and loving those we serve. And while no two individuals are alike, there are overarching commonalities that we have seen ringing true. Our friends in the industry would not be working if there wasn’t a demand. If there was another viable source of income, most of them would take it. But the demand is high, even in Waco. Most of the industry has moved online. The average age of entry into this industry for a female is 12 years old, around 9 years for a male. This sounds shocking, but it is reality. The demand for commercial sex is a 3.2 billion dollar industry. So at some point, JSL had to ask the question, “What are we doing to affect the demand?”

As part of The Heart of Texas Human Trafficking Coalition, Jesus Said Love is proud to announce “Stop Demand School” (formerly known as “Waco John School”). The first course was offered in McLennan County on October 18, 2016. SDS is a sex buyers intervention program that will work alongside the local justice system with a mission to stop the demand for commercial sex with the vision of restoring lives. Intervention programs for sex buyers are nationally recognized for reducing recidivism. Stop Demand School aims to be another tool for judges and probation officers when sentencing those charged with misdemeanor crimes related to the solicitation of sex.  The Heart of Texas Human Trafficking Coalition extends this program to all counties in Central Texas in order to stop the demand of commercial sex exploitation in our communities. Stop Demand School will be housed under the non-profit Jesus Said Love and will run as an educational program of the organization.

Mission Statement:

Stop Demand School is a sex buyers intervention program that aims to end the demand for commercial sex exploitation by educating those charged with solicitation of sex through an eight-hour intervention course.

Offenders pay course fees to Jesus Said Love, an organization that reaches women in the commercial sex industry and provides empowerment programs directly to women. Funds raised will support these programs as well as other agencies serving commercial sex exploits. Using restorative justice principles, the curriculum educates offenders on STDs, addiction, pornography, and the issue of human trafficking as linked to the commercial sex industry. Participants will also hear from a survivor of the commercial sex industry. Stop Demand School also offers free STD and HIV testing through the Department of Public Health as well as resources for recovery. Instructors from DePaul, Baylor University, Public Health Department, UnBound, and Waco PD will be among the facilitators.


  • To see recidivism drop and the demand for sex in our county measurably decrease.
  • To increase stricter punishment for those buying sex.
  • To restore offenders to society and provide resources for their individual growth.

Who can come?

Any person in McClennan County arrested for solicitation of a sex crime. Offenders who show up visibly drunk or high will not be permitted to stay and will be escorted off the premise by a police officer.

How it works:

As a community education program, Stop Demand School will gain referrals through the justice system. Judges and probation officers alike can mandate this course as part of the offender’s sentencing. Notification for the course and enforcement comes from probation officers.

Stop Demand School will offer a certificate of completion for offenders after accounting for full attendance.

Stop Demand School will maintain secure and private records of attendance and will notify probation officers of progress and/or no-shows.

The Financials:

Payment of Stop Demand School, an education program of Jesus Said Love, will be paid to Stop Demand School via the website. The course fee is $400. Half of the payment will be due prior to class at the time of registration.

For more information:

Visit the website: www.stopdemandschool.com or call 254-300-7658

emily mills flippedEmily  Mills received her B. A. in Communications from Baylor University. While at Baylor, Emily participated in various opportunities to serve the marginalized and lead worship. This began her passionate pursuit to “put feet” on the songs she was singing.  In 2003, while leading worship at a conference for women exiting the sex industry, these two worlds collided and Jesus Said Love was born. Emily continues to lead worship around the country with her husband, Brett. They have three children: Hattie, Lucy and Gus. To learn more about JSL, please visit our website JesusSaidLove.com. Contact us at info@jesussaidlove.com.

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.


They’re Coming!

by Rick Allen

colcord-picIt starts as a trickle, within a few minutes it becomes a flood and within an hour or so it is gone. No, I am not writing about Waco Creek at the height of a Texas flash flood. I am describing the visceral experience that we who live on Colcord Avenue call “Halloween on Colcord.”

Only a decade ago, the numbers were high but manageable. Five hundred to eight hundred trick or treaters plus their parents would visit our stretch of Colcord for a couple of hours once a year. No big deal…but then we began to ask our neighbors in other neighborhoods about how BIG Halloween had become. “Oh yes”, they would exclaim, “We went from 20 to 30 trick or treaters this year”. We would eye them suspiciously…Were they even home? Were they turning off their light at 7:00pm? Had they run out of the whole bag of 25 Snickers? When we regaled relatives in Omaha of our fright night experience of hundreds of munchkins and their parents in 2 hours, we would be derided for embellishing our stories with Texas braggadocio.

line-waitingThen it really took off. About ten years ago, Ryan and Kristen R. enlisted their Sunday school class to do a hot dog give away and outdoor carnival. The first year, they gave away 500 dogs with chips and a drink. The next year…the word was out. People began car pooling their kids to Colcord. We upped the ante to prepare for the onslaught. By 5 years ago we were handing out over a thousand pieces of candy in 2 hours. We called in reinforcements; first from the neighborhood, then, HEB and friends from across the city. We set up candy stations with shifts of 30 minutes as we would wear out handing a child a piece of candy and commenting on how lovely their witch costume or Spiderman costume was. We enlisted the City of Waco to supply barriers to block off 3 blocks for the children’s safety. Last year, the Good Neighbor House (who took over the hot dog grilling) handed out over 800 hot dogs. The Capps, at the head of the blocked off street, handed out 2000 pieces of candy. We ran out of candy and wore out five adults by 7:30. Our final bag count was 1,550 pieces. Yes, from 5:30 when the two to three year olds come with mom to 7:00 when kids come running in groups of five to seven to get in line to 7:30 when we darken the whole house to let the stragglers know that we are bereft, empty and exhausted of candy supplies, it comes and goes. By 8:00 we secretively wander out to open the barricades once more and life returns to “normal” on Colcord.

purple-pumpkinYou may ask why? Why us? Why continue? Our church has been teaching us adults more about hospitality and doing for the least of these with no thought of earthly or spiritual gain…maybe that is it. I know I do it because there is no delight like seeing wee ones dressed up in costumes and taking their first tentative steps at socialization by saying, “trick or treat” and then after the candy drops into their bucket, saying, “thank you”.

Rick AllenRick Allen has worn many hats since coming to Waco in 1982. He has been a history and English teacher, social worker, therapist, special educator, school counselor, Dean of Students, Waco City Councilman, landscaper, xeriscaper, pedicab entrepreneur, B&B host, board member, Sunday school teacher, junior college instructor, MHMR curriculum writer, public speaker, blogger and dad.

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.


Portfolios and LinkedIn

By Diego Loredo

I know a lot of college students have heard this from their professors. “Make a portfolio and LinkedIn! It’ll help you get a job when you graduate.” I heard this way too many times during my freshman year here at UNT. But after making both an online (and physical) portfolio and a LinkedIn account, I think my professors were right about how important they are.

Being a public relations major, making a portfolio and a LinkedIn account are things that my professors constantly reminded me to do. I never really put much thought into either of them until sophomore year when I had assignments requiring me to do those things. But I’m actually glad that my professors made me create a portfolio and LinkedIn account. Although they still need work, I now have a great starting point.

For those who don’t know what a portfolio is, it’s where you put all of your professional work in one place to showcase to any possible employers. This can be from internships, major assignments from any classes, or any work relevant to what you’re trying to get hired to do. For me, I have work that I’ve done in my public relations classes, work that I’ve done with Minnie’s Food Pantry in Plano, and even my resume. It seems tedious to do, but it can really impress your future employers and can land you that dream job if you do it right.

I have a physical portfolio that I made last semester in my PR class and an online portfolio as well. My physical portfolio basically has all of my work organized in a binder and separated by dividers. The link to my online portfolio is here. Although they’re not perfect, feel free to use them as an example.

LinkedIn is another way to showcase your skills, work and expand your network. I know some students think LinkedIn is a waste of time, but it all depends on how you use it. I currently do not have many connections since I’ve only began working on it recently, but I’ve already learned about its benefits from my professors. My social media professor is always telling us about how LinkedIn has landed former students jobs.

A lot of students think that you just make a LinkedIn then sit back and watch it land you a job. But you have to constantly monitor it and keep it updated. You can search for available jobs related to your major, connect with professionals who specialize in the same things you do, and much more. I’ve only started working on my LinkedIn account late into my sophomore year, but I recommend working on it during freshman year if you can. Don’t just connect with random people, but connect with those that you know or can help you land a job. Also, feel free to connect with me if you would like to here.

I know making a portfolio and LinkedIn account sound boring, but they can be extremely useful when you’re looking for a job. It’s true that they can be more useful for some majors and not as useful for others, but I believe all students should have one anyway. I still need to work on mine and get more experience, but I at least know how to use them and how valuable they are.

diego loredo - 2Diego Loredo is a junior at the University of North Texas and is majoring in public relations. He graduated from University High School in 2014. He plans on working in sports PR or for a nonprofit. He loves to play soccer and is a huge FC Dallas fan. Have something that you would like Diego to write about or have a problem that you would like to ask him? Shoot him an email at dloredo123@gmail.com.

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.