Sacred Journeys: Community and Purpose

By Trey Crumpton

What journey have you taken?  What journey will you take?  Do you have a friend or relative who has taken a journey according to his/her faith?  Might you have occasion to cross paths with someone whose faith tradition is different from yours?  These are all questions which we explore in our fall exhibit at the Mayborn Museum at Baylor University. Produced by The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and the National Geographic Society, Sacred Journeys focuses on important pilgrimages of five major world religions: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism.

It has been a privilege to listen and speak with people from our community who may think and believe differently, engaging in dialogue about our shared spirit and humanity.  People journey to add experience and context to their soul, and in some cases, to fulfill tenets within their given faith.  We learn together about each person’s tradition, and one might say that this “learning journey” is a sacred one—binding together those who might otherwise remain separate.

sacred-journeysOver the past few weeks, we have participated in several events which highlight our shared emphasis on stories. The Mayborn hosted an interfaith prayer breakfast for the opening of the exhibit, and museum staff were invited to share personal faith journeys at a Cross Cultural Dinner hosted by Baylor Spiritual Life.  The panel discussion, Holy Journeys, Holy Destinations included four Baylor professors (Candi Cann, Robert Creech, Elise Edwards, and Matthew Whelan) who discussed what happens when we travel to holy places, how holy places can travel with us.

jerusalemThroughout the fall, the museum will continue to host events which promote dialogue, including an Interfaith Student Panel Discussion on November 10, hosted by Baylor’s interfaith group, Better Together BU.  Along with the Greater Waco Interfaith Conference, the museum will host a Festival of Faiths on October 30.  The National Geographic film, Jerusalem, will play during select showings on the weekends, through the duration of the exhibit, which runs through December 31.

A little more about National Geographic Sacred Journeys:

Each year more than 330 million people around the world journey to sacred places as part of their religious commitments. Some seek enlightenment or healing. Others perform acts of devotion that are expressions of deep faith. The new exhibit reflects this diversity of religious and spiritual pilgrimage through immersive environments created with photography from National Geographic. Families will be able to observe, discuss, and begin to understand some of the beliefs and sacred journeys made by people around the world.

Recreated places, spaces, and events invite visitors to learn more about the history and beliefs that support spiritual practices that take place at home and within our congregations. Featured sites include:

  • The Western Wall of the Second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, Israel
  • Dome of the Rock, site of Muhammad’s ascent to heaven in Jerusalem, Israel
  • The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, site of Jesus’ crucifixion in Jerusalem, Israel
  • The Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to which all Muslims are expected to make a pilgrimage or Hajj once in their lifetimes
  • Tepeyac Hill and the Roman Catholic Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, Mexico
  • Allahabad and Sangam at the confluence of three rivers sacred to Hindus at the Ganges River in India, site of some of the largest gatherings of humans on earth
  • Bodh Gaya, birthplace of Buddhism, and the Bodhi Tree where Gautama Buddha achieved enlightenment in Bihar, India
  • Caves in the bluffs along the Dead Sea in Qumran, Israel where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered

ganeshThe exhibit will come to life through the personal stories of children and families who participate in sacred journeys or practices. Connecting with these experiences will allow visitors to learn how pilgrimage and revered artifacts reflect religious traditions and the cultures associated with those religions.

“The Sacred Journeys exhibit promises to be a very rewarding project. Many Americans associate the idea of pilgrimage with the Middle Ages, but in fact it is a huge reality in the present world, something that affects literally billions of people. Pilgrimage also provides a wonderful way of understanding religious impulses as they are expressed in different world faiths. So we are dealing with something richly educational, something that provides a unique way of understanding different religious traditions, but it’s also breathtaking in terms of the beautiful places and buildings that will be explored.,” says Professor Philip Jenkins, Distinguished Professor of History in the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University as well as the Mayborn Museum’s spokesperson for Sacred Journeys.

Trey CrumptonTrey Crumpton is Exhibits Manager for the Mayborn Museum Complex at Baylor University, where he has been on staff for 10 years.  He has lived in Waco since 2001, and has two energetic preschoolers who love to discover.  His beautiful wife Ashley is an early childhood educator, and together they are proponents of all things educational, enriching and fun.  Trey loves family, friends, the outdoors, dark chocolate, good books, pizza, and good film.

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.



Proposed Greater Waco Construction Sciences Academy: Great for Waco Students and Great for the Waco Economy!

By Scott Bland  

Over the last 30 years there have been two trends in our educational system and the construction industry that have been slowly and steadily creating an issue that has the potential to create dramatic problems within our economy. The construction industry that is critical to our economic health is experiencing a massive talent drain that is not being renewed. Fortunately, there is a plan in place to bring talent back to the industry and reverse the stigma that has been created around jobs in construction. It’s important to first look at the two trends that created the issue. 

During the last 30 plus years our education industry has been a “college or bust” model in which students were taught from the perspective that going to college after graduation was the only path to success. As a result, careers that didn’t involve a college degree were not presented as desirable paths to take after graduation. This has created a stigma against jobs in the construction industry and caused students to look at other options even if they have an interest and ability to work within the trades. 

At the same time the education industry was steering students away from the construction industry, the industry itself was becoming more and more diverse and technically complicated. The process of building a home or commercial building has evolved far beyond what the shop classes of the 1970’s and 80’s were able to show students. From the miles of electrical and network wiring to the framing calculations involved in high pitched roofs and vaulted ceilings, the construction industry can no longer get by with an un-educated workforce. 

What is not being taught to our high school students is the fact that there are jobs within the construction industry that pay at rates the same as or in many cases higher than jobs requiring 4 year degrees. A student graduating high school with a background in construction trades and who takes post graduate classes to receive certifications in the industry are suddenly qualified for hundreds of careers with pay ranges starting from $30 per hour and up. The lack of a talented applicant pool is so dire at this point; many trades companies will put these individuals into apprentice positions and work with them as they earn the certifications they need. 

What is needed is a program within the high school system that a student who is interested in careers within the construction industry can get specific class instruction as well as hands on training in the field. We are so fortunate in Central Texas to have the Greater Waco Advanced Manufacturing Academy (GWAMA) that can serve as the home for a construction sciences program. One of the many advantages to GWAMA is that it is open to students from any district in Central Texas. The GWAMA program has already had tremendous success within the welding, metalworking, and health care industries and there is space available for a construction services division. 


A few of the local leaders who have been working to plan the Greater Waco Construction Sciences Academy.

The program that is being proposed would begin in the 10th grade and would be exclusively taught in the classroom in that first year. The first year would be the time when the students would be exposed to all facets of the construction industry as well as being taught the basics of construction. Students would be taught the basics of plumbing, electrical, heating and air conditioning, framing, and masonry so they could begin to get a feel for their primary interest. This year would also involve receiving their OSHA certifications and CPR training to emphasize the importance of safety on the job sites. 

In the second year, the students would have much more specific classroom training geared towards their primary areas of interest. At least half of their time will be spent on job sites to begin get a feel for what a career in the industry is really like. NeighborWorks Waco has dedicated a yearly construction site for students in the program to receive instruction in their second year. 

In the final year the students will apply for, interview, and work within the industry on a paid internship. The students will have one day a week in the classroom and spend the other 4 days in a paid internship at a company within their primary area of interest. This is the model that companies within the industry are encouraging and the model that they will support by providing these internships. From the industry perspective, this gives them the opportunity to make sure students are being exposed to the concepts and practices that give them the best chance at being successful.  

For the students within the program, they will graduate with a diploma that has endorsements from the Heart of Texas Builder’s Association, the Texas Association of Builder’s and the Waco Association of General Contractors. That endorsement is the way that a student can show a potential employer that they have training and instruction that moves them ahead of other applicants. That endorsement may also place them further ahead within an advanced certification program. 

The message that needs to be out there is that the construction industry is no longer an industry to be stigmatized as a place for students that can’t make it in college. The salaries, benefits, and security of jobs in construction no longer lags behind professions requiring advanced degrees. The complexities of the industry also require students who are capable of working with their minds just as well as working with their hands.  

The construction sciences program at GWAMA, if approved, will provide students with an alternate path to success from the traditional “college only” model. It will provide a reason to continue going to school for those students who have no interest or desire to go to college. For a student whose family is involved in the construction industry, it will provide a validation and sense of pride in that work which has been missing for far too long. And for the student who desires a college education but cannot see any possible way to pay the costs – consider the benefits of having a high paying job in the construction trades to earn money to pay for that college degree!  This program provides a pathway to a career that can pay those tuition costs. A young person who has construction industry certifications, and a 4-year degree, and who has no student debt is a tremendous benefit to our economy. However, a young person with only a 4-year degree and who owes thousands in student loan debt is sadly far more common. 

(Note: The Waco ISD Board of Trustees will be hearing an update on the Construction Academy at their October 20 board meeting.)  

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.




Downtown Waco: What do the Millennials want?

By Rolando Rodriguez Soto

(This post is part of an on-going series about Downtown Waco.  In a sense, Downtown is “everybody’s neighborhood.”   In this series of blog posts we hope to contribute to the on-going conversation in Waco about what it takes to have a great downtown, and what we want for our own “Wacotown.”  To see all the posts in this series, click here: Downtown Waco. – ABT) 

The goal for revitalizing Downtown Waco is to create an all-inclusive downtown area that encourages people of all ages to visit on a regular basis.  One particularly important demographic is the millennial generation, roughly defined as those who graduated from high school in the year 2000 or later.  This group includes college students and young professionals.

I met with several young professionals and college students who were raised in Waco to hear what they wanted from downtown.  I focused on native Wacoans to get the perspective of people who have been exposed to downtown before and after the recent growth in downtown development.

Unsurprisingly, different people want and need different things from downtown – different things motivate them to make the trip to Waco’s city center. Some prefer a quiet place to study, some want to relax during the day with family, while others prefer a fun environment that can last all night.

Creating a livable downtown will mean establishing a balanced environment that appeals to a variety of personalities and accommodates different schedules. For example, Anthony Albiter and Angeli Mondragon put a high priority on daytime activities they can enjoy with their families. Richard Fuentes and Leonor Campos, on the other hand, crave more nightlife with music and entertainment.

Anthony was raised in the north Waco area. He received his associate’s degree at McLennan Community College, and he is currently a bank teller. Even though he attended high school at A. J. Moore Academy (now Indian Spring Middle School), he did not necessarily experience most of downtown until recently.

“Downtown would benefit from having more hangout spots besides bars because some people don’t really enjoy bars,” Albiter said. “Or having a plaza so families can go enjoy a nice walk.”

Angeli was raised in the south Waco area near downtown. She now lives in the Sanger Heights neighborhood and has two children—one 2 year old and one 10 month old. She values the walkability of downtown because she has to travel with a toddler and a baby.

“I usually go to downtown for food or Spice Village,” Angeli says. “I’d probably go more often if there were more things for me do with the kids. I would love if there was a festival for toddlers or a place like My Little Play Palace in downtown to tire out the kids, so I can go shopping afterwards.”

Both Anthony and Angeli mentioned that having opportunities like the Waco Wonderland, Cameron Park and the food trucks are great, and there could still be more regular activities during the day for a family to enjoy.

In contrast, to Anthony and Angeli’s familial perspective, Richard and Leonor are more attracted to a downtown area with a dynamic nightlife.


Richard Fuentes

Richard grew up in the North Waco neighborhood, and he currently attends Baylor University. He particularly enjoys First Fridays when businesses stay open late during the first Friday of every month. Fuentes often goes with friends to grab a drink at a bar in downtown.

“I would like to see more shops and restaurants open for business, especially during the night,” Fuentes said. “An ideal downtown Waco would be a place where you can go during a night out and enjoy the whole night with lights illuminating downtown to give people the option to walk boundlessly almost like a mini city within Waco.”

Leonor was raised in Lacy Lakeview near Waco, and she currently lives near the downtown area. She values the historic and art aspects of downtown as well as the opportunity for live music and entertainment.


Leonor Campos

“Downtown is slowly getting better with festivals and activities because each year they realize what didn’t work and what activities are getting more popular,” Campos said. “Before there were only club style bars, and now we are starting to have more live music.”

For Teresa Soto and Josh Arias it is not the businesses or restaurants offered during the day nor the bars or clubs open during the night that drew them from Hewitt to downtown — it was Pokémon Go.

“Before Pokemon Go, I wouldn’t go to downtown,” Teresa says.  “Pokemon Go brought me to downtown, which made me more comfortable going because before I didn’t see it as a safe place.”

Now after experiencing downtown, Teresa sees downtown as a nice place with food trucks, historic buildings, great restaurants, and people, so now she goes every other weekend. Her suggestion for improvement?  Make downtown more pet friendly with pet parks, and businesses and restaurants that allow pets.

For Josh, living in Hewitt means he really needs a reason to go into downtown. The food trucks and Cameron Park are great reasons to go, but downtown still needs something more to really encourage people.

“There should be more festivals and block parties with music for the community,” Josh says. “I would also love old school gaming arcades.”


Yesenia Lares-Martinez

Yesenia Lares-Martinez lived in Waco during her four years of high school until she moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas, but she returns to Waco regularly to visit friends. She offers an interesting perspective because she has been exposed to the downtown areas in both Austin and Waco.

“There is definitely more diversity and things to do in downtown Austin,” Lares-Martinez said. “I feel like in downtown Waco, it’s just one street that caters more to Baylor students and the middle and upper-middle class. There should be more clubs and bars catered to different identity groups.”

These Waco millennials seem most interested in developing a lively downtown area that has entertainment and activities throughout the day and night. Millennials and their wishes, however, are only part of the picture… what about high profile office buildings? Apartments and lofts? Easily accessible parking? Or stores that carry daily essentials such as groceries and supplies?

What is it that you want from Downtown Waco? Leave a comment below. I would love to hear what you have to say.

rolando-rodriguez-sotoRolando Rodriguez Soto was raised in Waco, TX, and he is currently attending Baylor University with plans to graduate in December 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing & Rhetoric. After graduation, he hopes to work in Waco in the nonprofit sector to help realize the full potential of Waco. His long term goals include hopefully creating and publishing creative work whether that is a novel, short story or even a television show.

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 Dignity of Getting Food the Ordinary Way

By Craig Nash

I don’t remember how old I was. Old enough to remember, I suppose. If the research I conducted on the historical conditions that led to this memory is correct, probably somewhere between three and six. It’s one of those cloudy early-life memories, the type you attach details and, more importantly, meaning to decades after it occurs. It’s also one of those random memories that isn’t constantly present, but presents itself at random times throughout my life, reminding me of how transformative the experience was, simply by virtue of its memory sticking around.

We were at the baseball field behind the school, my mom, sister and I. I want to say it was cold, but perhaps that is my mind adding editorial flourish to mimic what I was sensing. There was a crowd, but not for a game. I remember feeling out of place, like everyone but us knew the drill– when the truck would arrive, how to line up, what identification to have ready.

I remember my sister being excited, like she knew something I didn’t. When the truck arrived and backed up to the line, and it was our turn, she ran into the trailer with the paper bag as my mom told her what to put in it.

On our walk home, she took the pre-packaged foods out one-by-one to show us what we had. There’s only one thing I remember about the experience that I know is completely true, because it was so out of the ordinary. The food had generic packaging. Not “generic” in the “off brand, purchased at a discount store” sense, but “generic” in the sense that the packages and labels on the cans were white with simple black lettering identifying what was inside: Beans. Cheese. Noodles. Corn.

It was like food packages in the cartoons.

I remember being intrigued by this. If I could have explained what was going on in my mind, I would have said, “Mom, this is weird. This food doesn’t look like the kind we get in the store.” But in later years when the memory would peak back into my brain, the intrigue turned to shame as I realized what all this meant.

We were poor.

Dad worked for the Kelly Springfield Tire Company in Tyler, like most of the dads in the small town I grew up in. It was a union job, which was good when it was good, but not so good when layoffs and strikes occurred. It also meant that we were never in severe need for too long. (This wouldn’t be the case for Kelly families decades later, when the company closed the plant after demanding more and more concessions from its workers.) But the times of scarcity, though rare, were enough to leave a mark on me.

I often think about this experience as I am out and about, observing the many ways in which Wacoans pitch in to help our hungry citizens. I’m thankful there was a “safety net” for my family, just like there is for families all across our city. But I also think about the shame I felt at being in temporary poverty, what that did to my psyche, and I wonder about the future memories of children who are in perpetual poverty. This is why programs like SNAP and WIC are so important, (aside from the fact that they are proven to work.) They give parents the dignity of walking down a grocery store aisle with their children and making choices for their family, like every other family in the community.

It’s why I am thankful that school districts like Waco and La Vega ISD offer school breakfast and lunch free of charge to all students, so no child has to be singled out based on their ability to pay.

Our inclination to help is a good one. And sometimes, like when half a town loses its job due to layoffs, extraordinary measures need to be taken to get food to people in extraordinary ways. But my hope and prayer is that we will strive to find ways to get food to people in ordinary ways, that draws attention neither to the giver or the receiver, so that the memories of our children will only be those of food at the table, not how it got there.

craig Nash.pngCraig Nash has lived in Waco since 2000. Since then he has worked at Baylor, been a seminary student, managed a hotel restaurant, been the “Barnes and Noble guy,” pastored a church and once again works for Baylor through the Texas Hunger Initiative. He lives with his dog Jane, religiously re-watches the same 4 series on Netflix over and over again, and considers himself an amateur country music historian.

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.


National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day: The Face of the One in Four

by Dena Quigley

October 15th is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.  Did you know?  Five years ago, I was completely and blissfully ignorant.  But since then I’ve learned that one in four women will have a pregnancy that ends in either a stillbirth or a miscarriage… one in four!  That means when I go to dinner with three friends, one of us should expect such a loss.  Multiply that by several tables of women and this number quickly increases.  It’s an unpopular conversation starter for sure, but occasionally we need to be made uncomfortable so that we can be made aware.

quoteJay Neugeboren writes, “A wife who loses a husband is called a widow. A husband who loses a wife is called a widower. A child who loses his parents is called an orphan. There is no word for a parent who loses a child. That’s how awful the loss is.”  As a mother who has lost her daughter, I can relate to his words and I can attest to the loneliness that comes with such a loss.  At Cradled, we often refer to the loss of a pregnancy as a “silent sorrow.”  Not everyone can or is willing to relate to such a loss.  I’ve had friends literally and figuratively turn their backs on my grief, leaving my husband and I to not only pick up the pieces of our tattered hearts, but to seek out and find new community.  I am fortunate that I found Cradled by Love, Hope and Healing, a local group that provides support and resources for women and families experiencing the loss of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, early infant loss, and infertility.  They gave me shelter to express my fears and sadness, and the support and love I needed to move forward.

At Cradled, we are not happy to meet you or have you attend a support group, because that means you have suffered as no parent should suffer.  But we will meet you in your grief and loss and walk with you through your journey.  We offer empathy, and are willing to climb down into the hole with you, partake in your silent sorrow, and share our experiences along with other practical techniques to help ensure that you won’t be in the hole always.  For some families this journey is relatively short, and for others who come to Cradled, we walk a mile, and then a mile more, and another if needed.  It is an honor to be with them.

To the other three women who never experience a loss, we, the one in four, celebrate your successful pregnancies with you.  You deserve happiness and joy through the life of your baby.  All we ask is that you do not forget our babies.  Our babies meant just as much to us as yours do to you.  We understand that it is difficult to know what to say, but sometimes “I’m sorry, I will always remember” is just enough.


If you, or someone you know, is one in four, please know that Cradled is here for you. If your loss was yesterday, last year or last decade, we are ready to listen to your story.  Please visit our website at for more information about upcoming events and support groups.

dena-quigleyDena Quigley is a recent graduate of Baylor University having earned her PhD in Education.  She is a wife and a mother of two beautiful boys on earth and a daughter in heaven.  She has been a volunteer with Cradled by Love, Hope and Healing since 2013, and regularly co-leads support groups and is currently help to develop new curriculum.

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.