Health, Art, Murals

By Rae Jefferson
Communications Director, Family Health Center

On most treatment days, Ever makes popsicle stick puppets of creatures that eat, stomp, and breathe fire on cancer. The characters, with carefully drawn outlines, consist of crayon shading and physical features he remembers well.

He points to a couple crayon dashes on one puppet. “Those are his eyes.”

He points to a nearby line. “That’s his nose.”

Then his little finger moves to a cluster of scribbles an inch away from these facial features. “I just did that for fun.”

When Ever was three, his mother and father, guided by parental instinct, went to their primary physician at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Clinic, one of 14 clinics in the Family Health Center network. After a series of tests, Ever was diagnosed with leukemia. He’s been undergoing cancer treatment at McLane Children’s Hospital – Temple ever since.

It was evident early in his treatment that art would be an important weapon in Ever’s fight against cancer. When given the opportunity to draw before treatments, Stefanie and her husband noticed an improvement in their son’s ability to cope with the stress of pokes, prods, and strong chemicals used in cancer treatment.

“I feel happy and calm,” Ever said.

Most of Ever’s drawings consist of monsters and animals to which he assigns special cancer-fighting abilities. His Child Life Specialist recognizes the value of this process and helps him by writing names and powers on the back of each drawing and laminating the creations so Ever can keep them. Now, Ever has a special art supply box waiting for him when he goes in for treatment.

His sisters, who often accompany him to treatments, have also benefitted from the art supplies. It helps pass time and enables all three of the children to practice creativity.

Stefanie is the project manager of ArtPrenticeship, a creative internship program that teaches high school students how to manage a large-scale mural project from concept to completion. These students work alongside local artists to pitch and design murals to clients around Waco. This summer, one of two ArtPrenticeship teams painted a mural titled “The Color of Health” on the side of MLK Community Clinic – the very clinic in which Stefanie’s children, including Ever, receive primary care.

Stefanie said the decision to paint MLK Community Clinic was an easy one for ArtPrenticeship program leaders to make. Although clinic staff at MLK Clinic don’t treat Ever for cancer, they remain sensitive to how they can make visits more enjoyable for a child battling medical trauma from enduring years of unpleasant procedures.

“He processes these things through art no matter where he goes,” Stefanie said. “His providers, whether at MLK or McLane, they’ve always immediately clued into that. All of our doctors have received pictures that he’s made.”

Apart from the personal connection, Stefanie said MLK Clinic was the right choice because it exposed the high school-aged apprentices to conversations about health and wellness in Waco. Professional artists participating as program leaders and teachers also benefitted.

“They are creatives and self-employed,” Stefanie said. “They didn’t know some of the services FHC provides for people without insurance.”

Join Family Health Center, Creative Waco, and ArtPrenticeship for an upcoming celebration of art and health. Movie at the Mural is from 5:30-8 p.m. this Friday, Nov. 22, at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Clinic. The free event will begin with a plaque unveiling at the mural, and at 6 p.m. will segue into an outdoor screening of “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” with popcorn, cookies, and a hot cocoa station.

Rae Jefferson is a creative, Netflix binger, and marketing professional, in that order. Originally from Houston, she stuck around Waco after graduating from Baylor University with a B.A. in Journalism, PR, & New Media and a minor in Film & Digital Media. Now she’s the Communications Director at Family Health Center, where she gets to spend each day serving Waco. When she’s not working, find her at home snuggled up with her dog-daughter, Charlie, watching “The Office” for the hundredth time.

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.

Feeding Families and Uniting Communities

By Sion Firew

As the holiday season approaches, it’s wonderful to recognize the joy within one’s own life through family, community and giving. It’s also the perfect time to share personal blessings with others who may be less fortunate. During this week, National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, there are many opportunities to give back to the community and spread light to those who may not be looking forward to the holiday season. One opportunity that has changed the lives and filled the stomachs of many for the past 30 years is the Food For Families Food Drive on Nov. 22. This one-day food drive happens all over Central Texas and gives members of different counties and communities the chance to donate non-perishable food items to their local food pantries.

The Longhorn Council, Boy Scouts of America, H.E.B. Grocery Company and KWTX News 10 sponsor Food For Families annually the week before Thanksgiving, that way food pantries throughout Central Texas have plenty of food to offer the people during the holiday. In McLennan County, Caritas of Waco helps facilitate volunteer and donation services, making sure there are enough people on Nov. 22 to help collect the food items that were donated. The staff of Caritas also prepares their warehouse to receive a large influx of donations.

According to the KWTX website, the first Food For Families Food Drive in November 1990 collected 84,435 pounds of food. As this operation has grown over the past 30 years, Food For Families has become a collaborative effort bringing prominent organizations and businesses in Central Texas together. According to the KWTX website, in 2018 alone, 2,221,369 pounds of food were raised all over Central Texas. In McLennan county, 498,000 pounds of food were collected in 2016. This goes to show the power of community, caring and collaboration.

Buddy Edwards, the executive director of Caritas of Waco, talked about the importance of the food drive for his organization’s successful community engagement.

“Food For Families is really a critical aspect for operations of several food pantries here in our area,” Edwards said. “It helps us in terms of our direct assistance to people in need, [with] Waco having a very significant poverty rate, 25 to 30% of the Waco population living in poverty.”

He explained how the food drive has grown significantly since he started working at Caritas 10 years ago, and how this initiative allows his organization to reach members of his community personally. Edwards also emphasized the importance of teamwork in order to make this food drive grow throughout his time with Caritas. Through the efforts of the sponsors and other organizations, they have been able to spread awareness about not only Food For Families, but also the hunger and homelessness situation that Waco faces. While it’s important for the leaders of different counties and communities to support this event, it’s up to the members of these communities to donate, spread the word and volunteer.

This holiday season, share a blessing with the members of your community and take part in the Food For Families Food Drive on Nov. 22. While grocery shopping, you can purchase any number of non-perishable food items (canned meats, tuna, cereal, rice, peanut butter and more) and leave them at the doors with the volunteers. Help fight food insecurity by contributing to the food drive and filling the shelves of your local food pantry. When people come together for a common cause, lives can be changed for the better.

For more information, visit:

Sion Firew is a communications intern at Prosper Waco. She is a Journalism and International Studies major at Baylor. She is the president of The East African Student Association and an Ambassador for the Baylor Journalism Department.

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.

Triple Win Apprenticeships build on authentic learning to create success for students and businesses

By Clay Springer

Following the wildly successful partnership between Rapoport Academy and Waco Pedal Tours, a new collaboration emerged to formalize the process of non-traditional apprenticeships and provide the space to reach more students. The Triple Win Apprenticeships pilot program is a collaboration and joint venture between Rapoport Academy Public School, Connally Career Tech High School, and Triple Win Apprenticeships. While earning a stipend, students from both schools are working through a rigorous 24-week internship on Thursday nights to gain hands-on experience in a variety of disciplines including entrepreneurship, fabrication, electronics, sales, and marketing. The internship is a hybrid program of both hands-on shop time and online training and professional learning to earn the OSHA 30 industry certificate for general fabrication, as well as Solidworks for CAD design and blueprinting, CAM programming for plasma CNC tables.

Several businesses and individuals approached the schools about partnering to bring their products and ideas to market including the latest project with Waco Axe Company to build a mobile axe throwing trailer. Triple Win has also partnered with HomeHarvest, an agrotech startup company that recently won the first place $5,000 prize in Extraco Banks Big Idea Challenge. HomeHarvest’s signature product, the GreenPod – a modular, hydroponic growing environment, will move from paper designs to market with the help of Triple Win students.

Two pieces of legislation, Texas House Bill 5 in 2013 and House Bill 3 in 2019, have fundamentally changed the funding and accountability models for Texas students and provided new avenues for our next workforce to move quickly and efficiently through training into career. Under the new state accountability rating system, the state assigns a letter grade to each district. The standardized testing scores are considered at the same rate as student completion of industry-based certificates making them workforce ready. Industry-based certificates include professional certificates like welding CWS 1.1-6, Entrepreneurship and Small Business, Solidworks CAD Associate, Drone Pilot Part107, Adobe Products Associate, OSHA30 construction and many more. The district can also earn up to $7,000 per student for students that become College, Career, and Military ready, or CCMR ready, as an Outcomes Bonus from the state in the following fiscal year.

School districts are quickly seeking highly-qualified instructors needed to meet the qualifications required for students to meet the CCMR requirements for accountability grade and funding bonus. This means retraining current teachers and enabling paid time off for teachers to obtain the clinical hours required for licensure through externships.

What is Triple Win?

Triple Win is a startup company owned and operated by teachers and students together. The modern workforce demands a multidisciplinary learner that has deeply experienced the process of learning. No longer will a classroom full of students following a set of instructions to make the same product prepare our workforce for unknown problems with unknown solutions. Students, educators, and employers together need real experiences, real dollars, real successes and real failures to form a team dedicated to learning together and becoming confident problem-solvers. When students work with local businesses to authenticate classroom learning and receive mentorship, high-wage and in-demand careers become an attainable endgame. Triple Win serves as the bridge from education to workforce through training, consulting, and fiscal agency by leveraging local, state, and federal funds earmarked for workforce development.

Triple Win apprentices show up early, stay late, thrive on hard work and ambiguity, and believe that learning how to learn is a lifelong investment. Triple Win is a noun and a verb; it’s a concept, but more than that, it is students, education, and business sticking their hand in the middle of the team huddle and saying, “together we can achieve more.”

Triple Win evolved from a group of high school students and their teacher while working with a local start up business, Waco Pedal Tours.  The team of four students and a teacher were asked to build a new pedal bike from scratch after the company’s bike had failed leaving the business stranded and its owner’s emotionally drained. WPT hired the team from Rapoport Academy Public School as W-4 employees, provided workers’ insurance, an hourly wage to students during class and even rented a shop for the team. After six grueling months of design, fabrication, and testing, the team had produced its first prototype ready for customers. The new bike was bigger, more powerful, and full of custom touches like laser engraved Waco themed pieces, LED lights, air-ride suspension, and many more technical attributes. The owners could not have been more excited; they considered the new bike a masterpiece. Since that time the company has thrived. The new bike project was a major win and has been featured in local and statewide media coverage as a cutting-edge workforce development program. The Waco Pedal Tours owners and students realized, even with the wild success of the product, the process of authentic learning experienced by everyone involved outweighed the success of the new bike. The teacher moved from in front of the class to working alongside students, addressing individual student learning needs and passions. Together, a local startup, students, and a teacher formed a three way mutually beneficial partnership – they formed a Triple Win. Triple Win Apprenticeships formalizes the concept discovered during the pedal bike build into a consulting agency that school districts can partner with to reach more students.

We cannot expect public educators to train for pedagogical expertise and yet still be experts in the trade careers, neither will be executed well for our next generation. Triple Win was formed by students, teachers, and business owners who recognize that the weight can be taken off the shoulders of teachers and administration by working together for workforce training.

Triple Win has four community directives:

  1. Modern workforce development through non-traditional apprentice programming ( Often this programming will happen outside of regular work hours to allow students to earn wages and finish school. Triple Win’s current joint venture takes place on Thursday nights ).
  2. Act as a fiscal agent for student start-up businesses.
  3. Act as a consultant to bridge the communication and skills gap between K12, higher education, and employers by developing and employing highly trained instructors that have extensive knowledge of both industry and education while also holding industry certificates.
  4. Let teachers be teachers.

Triple Win Apprenticeship programs are offered at no cost to each school district beyond the extra funds the school district receives from placing students in the CTE course. A Triple Win instructor is placed on faculty at each partnering district as an adjunct instructor and paid a stipend. Local school districts are thrilled about a program that pays for itself and fulfills the new requirements for state accountability and funding bonuses from workforce ready students. School districts will not be the constraint of scaling the Triple Win model.

Triple Win will continue to cultivate partner businesses to ensure lasting pipelines to career, and publicly celebrate every complete project. Partner business are expected to contribute financially to each student’s experience through providing training, materials, and work space. To scale, Triple Win must prove concept through strategic publicity and well directed marketing strategies to increase awareness.

The program sells itself to educational entities and business, but Triple Win must work closely with families to gain trust and respect to support a clear bridge to career for each student. To better market the program to new families, Triple Win will ensure that appropriate wrap-around services are provided to apprentices for a successful launch into a career.

Clay Springer currently serves as STEAM and Career and Technical Education Director for Rapoport Academy Public School. Clay started his educational career at Rapoport Academy in 2010 as a teaching assistant for Quinn Middle school before becoming a classroom teacher and advocate for STEM and Authentic education. Clay and his wife, Joi, welcomed their first child, Shepherd, on Thanksgiving day 2018. They enjoy spending time on the Brazos River on old boats that Clay boldly claims someday will be as good as new.

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.

Our Journey to Find our 5th Son

*Identifying information has been changed due to confidentiality.

In January 2019 I, Amanda, went with my close friends to a Children’s Pastor’s Conference in Florida. The conference was very inspiring and informative. Curiously, every speaker mentioned foster care or adoption in relation to how to minister to our families and children. They talked about how families have changed so much and the need for people to come alongside and support and encourage these families and children.

My husband and I had pursued foster care in the past but had such negative experiences with the process and frustrations with their requirements that we really weren’t interested. But the desire to help children in need wouldn’t go away… so much so that I asked my husband what he thought about it. Unbelievably, he agreed to do the online interest meeting, and he wasn’t completely turned away.

In January of 2019, I had a dream about a young boy. This young boy was running up to my car as I was driving out of the grocery store parking lot. The boy was yelling, “Please take me home with you. Are you taking me home? Please don’t leave me here.”  I woke up undone! In tears, crying my eyes out. Although the boy in the dream resembled my own son Matt, I had never seen a child of my own cry with such desperation! From that point on, I felt convinced that for some reason God had us on this path. I wasn’t sure if the dream was just to awaken my senses to a deep need in our community, or for me to be a part of the foster care system, or if indeed I had a son that was waiting for me to take him home.

After many conversations with my husband, we began the process to become a licensed foster/ adoptive family. We continued with the classes but frequently thought about dropping out of the process. We second guessed our decision at least twice a week. It was weird and awkward talking to friends and family about what we were planning on doing because I’m 60 and Mark is 62 and it’s like … Abraham and Sarah … we’re a bit old to start parenting again. And yet … the effects of the dream would not go away.

We finished all our classes, paperwork, inspections, and then home-study in May and we were simply waiting for them to finalize the paperwork for licensing. We told them we weren’t in any hurry because we weren’t going to take a placement before our vacation in June. We had by this time decided that we were just willing to do respite. The stories our friends were telling us regarding their placements, and the trouble the kids were, and just all the stuff … we simply had too much going on in our lives to deal with it for more than a week. But we could certainly help someone else out and give them a break. Babysitting without all the commitment.

On a Sunday in June 2019, I got the call asking if I would do respite for an 11-year-old boy who was coming from a failed adoption placement. From here, we took our first [and only] foster respite placement. Jay was a neat kid from the beginning. Eager for life and connection. After a being with us a few days, I asked if he could come with us to a preteen camp. By the end of the first week, I told the case workers that Jay really needed to stay put for a while. We were the 7th place he had stayed in 2.5 years. [only three actual placements, but 7 different stays, 7 different adults, 7 different rules and situations, 7 different everything]. Praise God Arrow’s case managers were thinking the same thing and worked overtime to get us officially licensed so that Jay could stay with us as his new foster placement.

Since the time Jay had been placed in foster care going to school was challenging. Obviously, he was frustrated with being separated from his brothers, and then moving to a new place, not knowing what was going to happen and being forced to behave socially when he was unsure of what was going to happen to him.

Jay began dropping hints that he wanted us to adopt him. But my husband wasn’t truly convinced we should adopt. Our age, my parents living with us, Jay’s energy and anger issues. How would we be able to handle all of this? And what would happen when he was older and stronger?

One day we got an email stating they were presenting Jay’s case to 3 families who were interested in him, and that IF we were interested in adopting Jay, we would need to let them know right away.

Suddenly, we were faced with a dilemma. We didn’t feel ready to adopt but we were already attached to Jay and unwilling to let him go. Plus, the dream kept compelling us. So, we said yes; we wanted to adopt him! We began the adoption process. We worked hard to complete the process quickly because we wanted to complete the adoption before the holidays.

During this time, we began discussing his name. Naturally we wanted him to have our last name. And because of the dream we wanted him to know that God saw him and heard him and so God spoke to me in a dream revealing to us his new middle name, Derek. But we also wanted to change his first name from Jay, which was associated with so much pain and suffering, to a character he had begun to admire who was bold and courageous. *Adoptive Name*. We prayed and we asked our friends to pray that he would be receptive to the change.

We had planned to wait to tell Jay until we had a court date so that he wouldn’t be so anxious. But in September, we received the papers from the lawyer and included was a statement Jay had to sign in front of a notary public stating he wanted to be adopted and he approved of the name change. 

So, on that day, [8 months from the morning of the dream] we formally asked Jay if he would like for us to adopt him. We took him out to IHop for breakfast, and after ordering our food we asked.

Mark, “We would like to adopt you. Would you like that?”

Jay, “Yes! Yes!”

Amanda, “Jay, back in January I had a dream about a little boy who came running up to my car and beating on the windows begged ‘Please don’t leave me here! Please take me home!’”

Then I handed him a card which read:

Would you be our son?

*Adoptive Name*

We love you Mom and Dad.

Jay looked up at us with wonder in his eyes and said, “Is this my new name?” We nodded. “I love it! My name is going to be *Adoptive Name*, like the man in the Bible. You’re really going to adopt me?” “Yes!” “I’m going to be your son!”

Our family has been blessed through the process of adoption. This was a journey our family could have never fully prepared for. We are thankful for the people who helped us through this process. Jay, you are loved, you are worthy, and we are blessed by you joining our family.

A note about Arrow Ministries from Ashley Seidl:

Arrow Child and Family Ministries is a foster agency whose goal is to help kids and strengthen families. Arrow serves and impacts over 4,000 children, teens and families each year.  We were founded in 1992 by a former foster youth who believe that Christian foster care was the answer to the ever-growing crisis of foster care.

One of our beloved families has been so kind to share their story with you! This was written by a foster mom who will be becoming an adoptive mom on November 22nd, National Adoption Day. Their lives have been forever changed through the foster and adoption process. She and her husband have been a blessing to Arrow Child and Family Ministries.  If you are interested in becoming a foster/ adoptive family, or would like to receive more information on how to serve these families in the area, please reach out to me, Ashley Seidl at or call (254) 752-2100.