Prosper Waco: Get to know your Community Health Worker

By Christina Helmick

Do you live in one of the following zip codes: 76704, 76705, 76706 or 76707? Did you know that you have a certified Community Health Worker who is dedicated to helping you navigate the healthcare system and focused on connecting you to local resources? Did we mention it is all for free?

The McLennan County Community Health Worker Initiative, referred to as CHW, is a program led by the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District to connect individuals in Waco’s most high-need areas to healthcare information and resources. This program was made possible through generous funding by Episcopal Health Foundation and is in partnership with Providence Healthcare Network, Baylor Scott & White-Hillcrest and Family Health Center. There are three CHWs per high-need zip code, which totals 12 CHWs for Waco!

Pictured above are a group of Waco’s Community Health Workers.

Since CHWs are individuals who are from, work in and understand the community they represent, I thought I would take the opportunity to do a Q&A with two CHWs so people can get to know who they are and how to get in touch with them! The Q&A features Domonique Corsey, a CHW for the East Waco community, and Christy Perkins, a CHW for the North Waco community!

Q: Why do you think the CHW initiative is important for our community?

Domonique: The CHW initiative is good for the Waco community because as community members, we have the opportunity to be the voice for the voiceless. The Waco community needs to see that they have people who are there for them through every circumstance. We as Community Health Workers advocate, manage, facilitate, encourage, educate and build—just to name a few! Our tasks vary from distributing brochures with educational information in relevant neighborhoods to helping an elderly woman check her glucose levels. CHWs also work with individuals or groups to educate them on preventable diseases like diabetes or heart disease.

Christy: The CHW program is important to our community for many reasons. This program supplies Waco’s most high-need communities with CHWs who will advocate on behalf of clients’ overall needs with true intent to produce a positive change. One of the most important roles of a Community Health Worker is to build trusting relationships with their clients. One way we are able to do that is by meeting them in a comfortable setting. By meeting people where they are in life and without judgment, it gives clients someone who they can trust and discuss issues with. CHWs help to set and reach goals according to their individual needs. The CHWs help to access resources while educating clients on how to navigate resources self-sufficiently.

Q: Why did you apply to become a Community Health Worker?

Domonique: Once I heard of the CHW initiative, I knew it was for me because of my passion for the community. I am passionate about being a helping hand and seeing others succeed. To me it’s very important to be able to help others thrive. I love learning while I work and I truly enjoy what I do as a CHW—who doesn’t want that!

Christy: I applied to become a CHW because I have a passion for advocacy. I have a desire to raise awareness for advocacy and resources available to people. I didn’t know where to start and this opportunity gave me access to step into that role. I have a heart for people and want to assist them in pushing past adversity and living their best lives.

Q: Since you started working at a Community Health Worker, what have you seen as the biggest health-related needs in your community?

Domonique: In East Waco, the biggest needs range from employment, affordable housing, and various healthcare needs, especially mental health. When you drive around East Waco, you see so many people walking around ill and homeless. Another need I see is the connection with our youth. Our community needs low-cost or free programs that can enrich our young people’s lives.  I also see many exterior structures that need repair, such as stop signs and sidewalks.

Christy: In North Waco, one of the greatest needs is providing resources to the homeless. There is overpopulation in the shelters in our community. Many of our homeless population have health issues and most often mental health issues. They are subject to harsh weather and struggle to provide the necessities to live day-to-day. The needs are many and the access to them is limited for a number of reasons. Other needs I see are childcare and rental assistance! Some barriers to resources in the North Waco community are simply the lack of knowledge of the available resources available and language.

Check out the Prosper Waco’s June monthly television on the City’s cable channel, which highlights how CHWs are using data to target interventions and programs!

If you are looking to get connected to your Community Health Worker, you can call the CHW coordinator, Paula Solano, at the Health District! Her phone number is 254-750-5631. She will pair you with your Community Health Worker.

The Waco-McLennan County Public Health District is looking for THREE more CHWs for the 76705, 76706 and 76707 community! Ideally, the CHWs would be bilingual and/or male. If you know of someone who would make a great CHW, call Paula Solano (254-750-5631).

Collaborative efforts like the CHW initiative are working to address the community’s goals around access to care, including increasing the percentage of individuals who have health insurance and decreasing the use of the emergency room as a source of primary care. To learn more about initiative efforts like the CHW, visit the Prosper Waco website.


Christina Helmick is the director of communication at Prosper Waco. She is a recent graduate of Baylor University with a BA in Journalism, Public Relations & New Media. Originally she is from Washington, D.C., but has stayed in Waco post-graduation.  She is an active mentor at J.H. Hines Elementary School, enjoys spending time with her family and watching Baylor football. Sic ’em Bears!

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

 

Closing the Gaps in Mental Health Services for Children and Youth

By Kelli McAdams

Our Community Our Future (OCOF) was started in the Fall 2015, when Klaras Center for Families (KCF), the child and adolescent division of Heart of Texas Region MHMR, helped to organize a committee of community stakeholders to look at the needs of children and adolescents in our community.

Our initial goal for OCOF was to identify gaps in services and to work with community partners to meet those identified needs. In an effort to help meet some of the needs identified, we at KCF applied for grant funding on behalf of the OCOF committee. We were awarded the grant and received $3.4 million for an initiative called “Closing the Gaps” through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).  The mission of Closing the Gaps is, “to provide access to previously inaccessible services and supports for our community’s most at-risk youth in order to enhance opportunities and improve outcomes for future success.”

There are three main targets for the funding of this four-year grant:

  • School Based Mental Health
  • Transition Age Youth (TAY)
  • Crisis Respite for Youth

Here are some examples of how we are using the grant funds…

School Based Mental Health – Through OCOF, we have been able to place counselors and case managers on location at schools in the area.  This makes it possible to provide the children and adolescents with the most intensive mental health needs with the care they need with minimal disruption to their school day. Quick and easy access to a counselor or case manager during times of crisis allows for immediate collaboration with school staff to best meet the student’s needs. We are currently on 25 campuses and are serving at least 125 students.

Transition Age Youth – Transition Age Youth (TAY) are individuals ages of 18 to 22. Our grant allows us to provide people in this age range with mental health services and additional support for life skills, education, and employment. Currently we are serving around 30 individuals.

Crisis Respite for Youth – Crisis Respite is a service that is much needed in our community. This means providing a temporary place to stay for young people who need something other than a juvenile placement, CPS placement, or psychiatric hospitalization. For example, Crisis Respite is needed for …

  • children in mental health crisis
  • homeless youth in crisis
  • victims of human trafficking
  • CPS youth in need of respite
  • other similar situations.

Klaras Center for Families is currently in the process of finding a facility that will serve as the Crisis Respite. It is our plan to have our facility function much like a residential home environment instead of a sterile hospital-like setting.

What are we doing in the future? OCOF’s future plans include expanding our community partners, adding additional school partners, applying for grants to expand our TAY program, and opening our Crisis Respite Facility in 2018. Above all, we want to continue filling gaps in services for children, adolescents, youth, and young adults in our community.


Kelli McAdams works for the Heart of Texas Region MHMR, as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has been with the child and adolescent division of MHMR, Klaras Center for Families, for the last 10 years, most recently as Child and Adolescent Crisis Respite Program Director. As part of Our Community Our Future, I am the Social Marketing Lead, and have the pleasure of sharing what the local system of care is doing to fill the gaps in services, in our community.  For more information about collaborative efforts like “Our Community, Our Future” in the Waco community, please visit the Prosper Waco website – www.prosperwaco.org.

he 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.

Low-to-no fee bank accounts help build financial Security

By Christina Helmick

April is National Financial Literacy Month! An important aspect of financial literacy is understanding the importance of avoiding high-cost financial services like check cashing or payday loans. Did you know that people who don’t have bank accounts are about six times more likely to use check cashing services than those that do? That is why banks and nonprofits in our community have come together to increase access to banking services by offering Bank On Waco accounts!

The Bank On Waco coalition is a partnership of multiple banks and nonprofit organizations dedicated to increasing access to the mainstream financial system. The Bank On Waco initiative is a national project of the Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) Fund with the support of some of the country’s biggest banks. Efforts of the Bank On Waco coalition address the Prosper Waco initiative’s wealth goals, which are to reduce the percentage of households living without three months’ worth of savings and have more than 50% of households with a net worth above $15,000.

The bank accounts offered in connection to the Bank On initiative are designed to benefit the underbanked community members. Someone who is underbanked is an individual who sometimes or frequently utilizes high-cost financial services like check cashing or payday loans rather than the services of a traditional bank.

Anyone can qualify for a Bank On Waco account, and individuals who choose to open an account have access to a range of low-cost financial services! Bank On Waco accounts do not have an income threshold a person must meet, which means the accounts are set up to help ALL residents avoid high-cost financial services and keep more money in their pockets!

Benefits of opening a Bank On Waco account include:

  • Low-to-no fee accounts
  • No overdraft fees
  • Free online bill-pay
  • Matricula card accepted
  • Free financial literacy
  • Free customer service
  • Free online banking
  • Free paper statements

Banks that offer Bank On account benefits include BBVA Compass, Extraco Banks, Independent Bank and Wells Fargo. Other banks involved in the coalition that offer low-fee accounts include American Bank, Central National Bank, Community Bank & Trust and First National Bank of Central Texas.

Take a step toward financial health and learn more about Bank On Waco by visiting bankonwaco.com .

To learn more about initiatives to improve education, health and financial security outcomes in the Waco area, visit www.prosperwaco.org or call 254-741-0081.


Christina Helmick is the director of communication at Prosper Waco. She is a recent graduate of Baylor University with a BA in Journalism, Public Relations & New Media. Originally she is from Washington, D.C., but has stayed in Waco post-graduation.  She is an active mentor at J.H. Hines Elementary School, enjoys spending time with her family and watching Baylor football. Sic ’em Bears!

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

 

 

 

Project Link: Bridging the gap between high school graduation & college completion

By Christina Helmick

When you think about what it means to make sure students are prepared to enter college successfully, what comes to mind? That they know how to fill out FAFSA and local scholarship opportunities like the MAC grant? That they have been on college tours throughout Texas and the nation? Or, that they have someone helping them figure out their time management skills prior to getting to college? When I think of what it means to make sure students are prepared for the next level, I think of Project Link.

Project Link is a multi-year project funded by the Rapoport Foundation that partners Waco ISD, La Vega ISD, MCC, and TSTC to serve a cohort of more than 1,000 local students and their families in charting a successful post-secondary journey through intense one-on-one college, career, and financial advising. The goal of the program is to ensure that more students have the opportunity to develop personal relationships with professionals who are focused exclusively on the process of supporting them through high school and ensuring a seamless transition to college, where they will receive continued support until completion of their college degree.

In the 2017-2018 Project Link cohort, 1,131 students are being served across all five campuses. Since the program started in the school year 2015-2016, 328 Project Link students have graduated and enrolled in college.

Project Link is staffed by a Project Link Coordinator who manages grant operations on a day-to-day basis and five Project Link Liaisons, three at the high school level and two at the college level.  The three high school Liaisons work with Project Link students to prepare them for college in many ways such as:

  • helping students with academic planning for college and career readiness
  • providing enrichment opportunities
  • college and career assessments
  • college affordability planning and financial literacy
  • college and career application process

The two Liaisons at MCC and TSTC work with Project Link students to help them through:

  • one-on-one mentoring and advising
  • life coaching
  • college transitioning
  • transfer requirements
  • financial aid and literacy assistance
  • scholarship information
  • stress management
  • student leadership opportunities

“As a Project Link Liaison, I work with many students who don’t think college is a realistic possibility for them. Much of my job is educating students about what college is and how they can benefit from continuing their education after college. In my specific role, I am able to assist students with navigating the college admissions process and financial aid completion and continue supporting them as their personal advisor at TSTC. The most fulfilling moments of my job are when successful students tell me that they would not be in college if not for the hard work of Project Link Liaisons,” Brandon Chappell, a Project Link Liaison, said.

To learn more about Project Link, visit https://prosperwaco.org/work_category/education/ or call 254-741-0081.


Christina Helmick is the director of communication at Prosper Waco. She is a recent graduate of Baylor University with a BA in Journalism, Public Relations & New Media. Originally she is from Washington, D.C., but has stayed in Waco post-graduation.  She is an active mentor at J.H. Hines Elementary School, enjoys spending time with her family and watching Baylor football. Sic ’em Bears!

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

 

How can I help my child become school ready?

By Christina Helmick

Did you know that preparing your child for school starts before they even enter the classroom? School readiness is an essential part of the development of a child before, after, and during their years in school. A child’s success is a parent’s success, and there are many free resources to support the school readiness journey! Here are two free resources for you to check out:

Vroom is a free, bilingual tool that utilizes daily brain building activities that can be incorporated into a family’s daily routine. Activities are based on the child’s age and focus on parent-child engagement. Vroom, an initiative of the Bezos Family Foundation, was developed by a group of dedicated scientists, community leaders and trusted brands with input from community organizations and families like yours. Vroom is providing parents and caregivers with activities to boost early learning.

Literacy Kits are another great resource for both parents and children. Waco ISD early childhood experts worked with the library’s staff to make sure the items included are items that will help a child become school ready. These kits can be checked out for up to 21 days. The Literacy Kits are funded by Waco Rotary Club and are available at all Waco-McLennan County libraries.

The School Readiness Working Group includes more than 20 organizations across the community that are committed to improving school readiness outcomes. This Working Group meets each month to talk about aligning activities and reviews best practices to bring into the Waco community to make sure all students entering school are prepared for success. If you’d like to join this group, send an email to Jillian (jillian@prosperwaco.org) today!

The Working Group looks at data each meeting to make sure the strategies the group implements are addressing the outcomes the community agreed upon. In the 2016-2017 school year, 60% of students entering Kindergarten in Waco ISD were ready to learn, compared to 59% across the state.  Even more impressive is that in Waco ISD if the kindergartners attended a Texas Public ISD, they were 11% more prepared for school than the state average.

Beyond promoting free resources like Vroom and the Literacy Kits, early childhood leaders in our community have developed a list of 10 important activities to do with your child to encourage school readiness! Here they are:

  • Read to your child every day
  • Have purposeful conversation
  • Play, Talk, Read!
  • Explore through movement and play
  • Count, Group, Compare
  • Create a routine, such as bedtime or bath time
  • Take turns and share
  • Make and give choices
  • Limit access to technology
  • Create opportunities to be helpful, such as allowing your child to help wash dishes

Whether you’re a parent, aunt, uncle, grandmother, grandfather, cousin, caregiver, school teacher or a community member dedicated to making sure generations to come are successful in school, it is important to get involved and share activities about school readiness!

Want to learn more about Vroom or the library’s literacy kits? Check out The Work” page on the Prosper Waco website. If you’d like to engage with other parents and community leaders committed to making sure each child is prepared to enter school, join the School Readiness Working Group by sending an email to Jillian (jillian@prosperwaco.org).


Christina is a graduate of Baylor University with a BA in Journalism, Public Relations & New Media and is currently pursuing a Masters of Business Administration through Tarleton State. She is originally from Washington, D.C., but is proud to call Waco her home. Christina sits on the Board of Directors for Waco Habitat for Humanity and serves as a community advisor for Junior League of Waco. She enjoys spending time with her family and watching Baylor football. Sic ’em Bears!

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

 

A Day in the Life of a Reading Club Mentor

By Josh Caballero

Most of us have picked up a book to read to or with someone else at some point in our life. We have read to our children, younger siblings, nieces and nephews. We have grabbed the newspaper or our phone and read a section to our spouse, colleague or friend. We can remember grabbing a book and reading along in school as a teacher read to us. These simple moments seem exactly that—simple. Yet we often forget this when we are asked to consider volunteering to read to children at a school. We think it takes a certain type of person with some sort of specialty in reading and other skills that we don’t have. We think, “I don’t have a teaching background or know how to work with kids. I wouldn’t know where to begin to help children improve their reading.”

If I’m honest, I’m not sure that I often know where to begin when helping a kid to read, but I can tell you what it looks like for me and the volunteers Waco CDC works with at various campuses:

Every week, one day a week, I take my lunch break to drive to West Avenue Elementary School. I arrive and say hi to the clerk in the front office and get signed in. Then I go to the counselor’s office to select books for my group to read. Once I have the books selected, I go to the cafeteria to wait on my students to grab their lunch. When they see me, they smile and wave and move to the front of the line. After they have their lunch trays we go to our reading area. We sit down and as they eat their lunch, they talk about things that are happening that week, what they’re learning in school, and what they think the book I’ve picked for us will be about based on the cover. Once we’ve done this we begin to read while they finish eating. Usually, we take turns reading. If they struggle at certain points I help them to slow down, sound out different words, and teach them the definition of words they haven’t read before. Sometimes I read to them and have them follow along. Other times they do all the reading. We’ll work on recognizing words on flash cards or make up our own story with the pictures in the book. When our time is up, we go back to the cafeteria to throw away their lunch trash and they join their classmates to go back to class.

Right now, there are almost 20 mentors reading at West Avenue Elementary School, more than 70 at Brook Avenue Elementary School, and nearly 10 at JH Hines Elementary School. The reality is that it does take a very specific type of person with a particular skill set to be a reading club volunteer. It takes a caring adult who is willing to be committed to give up a small portion of their time each week to get to know a kid while they sit and simply read together. If this sounds like you and you’re interested in being a reading club volunteer, please contact Josh Caballero at josh@wacocdc.org

If you would like more information about mentoring opportunities in Waco, don’t hesitate to reach out to Jillian Jones with the Prosper Waco team. You can contact her by sending an email to jillian@prosperwaco.org, or completing this form on the Prosper Waco website.


Josh Caballero is a community organizer in North Waco for Waco Community Development and works closely with local schools, churches, businesses, and residents in the Brook Oaks and Sanger Heights neighborhoods. Originally from the panhandle of Texas, Josh has been a Wacoan for 12 years and enjoys living in the Sanger Heights neighborhood with his wife Jennifer and daughter Millee Grace.

Prosper Waco 2017: The Year of Progress & Productivity

By Christina Helmick

Like any year, 2017 had its highs and lows. As we enter the holiday season, we choose to focus on the positive developments in Waco and look forward with excitement to the new year. You only have to drive around downtown to be reminded of how much Waco has grown in the last year—new development, new restaurants and businesses, new energy in the heart of our city. The mission of the Prosper Waco initiative is to harness that energy and growth to create an environment in which all members of our Waco community can measurably improve their education, health and financial security.

2017

What are some initiative projects that happened in 2017? The Waco Employer Resource Network (WERN) began its initial work of connecting employees of partner businesses to the support of local social service agencies to make sure that they get the help they need to keep their job when they run into financial and other challenges. The McLennan County Community Health Worker initiative has trained a dozen community members to serve as community health workers throughout the city. The Waco ISD high school internship program doubled in size as more employers provided opportunities for students to work, learn, and earn this summer. The Landlord Liaison Project connects people looking for housing to a housing navigator, case management, and potential landlords.

McLennan Community College began offering its Work Readiness Certificate, built with local employers, to help job seekers be prepared to get and keep a job in Waco. MHMR, in partnership with numerous local school districts, is offering mental health services to more than 100 students on school campuses. The McLennan County Reintegration Program has supported dozens of individuals as they leave the county jail and work to become productive community members. And 325 McLennan County households saved a total of more than $110,000 on their electricity bills through the first ever Waco Power Switch program.

For information on these efforts, download the 2016-2017 Prosper Waco initiative report.

2018

What’s coming next? At the 2017 Prosper Waco Summit, initiative partners revealed exciting projects that will continue our community’s important work in 2018. Waco Foundation has spearheaded the creation of a community plan to reduce teen pregnancy in McLennan County. This plan will take coordinated efforts from schools, healthcare providers, churches, families, and others. Only two percent of teen mothers earn a college degree, and the children of teen mothers are more likely to be raised in poverty. Providing the community education and support to our youth to reduce the number of children having children will improve long-term education, health and financial security outcomes in our county.

Family Health Center began a variety of new programs in its effort to become a Community-Centered Health Home, including offering guided fitness activities at its new Wellness Center; partnering with Greater Waco Legal Services to give patients access to the legal support they need to address issues that harm their health; and urban gardening and fresh produce for patients and neighbors. The Start Up Waco initiative will connect community members with resources and support to create new businesses. Connecting with other entrepreneurs and with experts at Baylor, MCC, and our chambers of commerce will allow young and old Wacoans to become their own boss. And a downtown co-working space will be a place to make the magic happen. Click here to watch this month’s Prosper Waco television show on the City’s Cable Channel to learn more about these three efforts.

As 2017 comes to an end, it is important to take a step back and look at what our community has accomplished by working together to improve education, health and financial security outcomes in the Waco community.

The work continues into 2018! If you want to get involved in the Prosper Waco initiative, there will be a Prosper Waco 101 session on Thursday, December 7 at the Doris Miller YMCA starting at 5:30 p.m. This fun and informative session will cover the history of the Prosper Waco initiative, some current projects, and ways to get involved. This is a child-friendly event and dinner will be provided. Please RSVP as space is limited!

If you are unable to attend the Prosper Waco 101 event, but still want to be involved, please email Jillian Jones (jillian@prosperwaco.org) or call 254-741-0081.

From the entire Prosper Waco team, happy holidays and we look forward to the great work our community will do in 2018!


Christina Helmick is the director of communication at Prosper Waco. She is a recent graduate of Baylor University with a BA in Journalism, Public Relations & New Media. Originally she is from Washington, D.C., but has stayed in Waco post-graduation.  She is an active mentor at J.H. Hines Elementary School, enjoys spending time with her family and watching Baylor football. Sic ’em Bears!

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prosper Waco: Waco’s Continued Commitment to Community Change

By Christina Helmick

Henry Ford once said “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” Personally, I think that quote described the atmosphere during the 2017 Prosper Waco Annual Summit. On October 12, hundreds of community members gathered at the Waco Convention Center to celebrate the work our community has begun by working together.

The evening’s program focused on where we’ve been, where we are and where we are going. The night kicked off with opening remarks by Dr. Marcus Nelson, the superintendent for Waco ISD. There was such excitement in the room between those who were hearing him speak for the first time and those who knew how his words capture an audience. Following Dr. Nelson, our director of community engagement, Liz Ligawa, and a panel of grassroots community leaders took the stage to talk about why showing up and sharing your perspective is important to community change.

Next, Matthew Polk highlighted initiative efforts led by community partners that are currently being implemented such as Project Link, System of Care and the Community Loan Center. Then, a panel of seven community leaders took the stage to answer questions about efforts addressing education, health and financial security outcomes. Panelists answered questions about what data the organizations involved are tracking and how community members can get involved. With the event coming to a close, three speakers detailed efforts with big plans for 2018.  

At the end of the night, one of our goals was to ensure all people at the Summit understood there are ways to get involved starting that night. Each person can make a commitment to get involved by working together to improving overall quality of life in Waco. So, we asked people to complete a commitment card. The card highlighted the different opportunities people can take to become involved. We listed a few of the ways to become involved like mentoring and joining work happening at the neighborhood-level. Forty-four people committed to being involved and working together to achieve the community’s goals. Of the 44 people who made their commitment at the Summit:

  • 17 identified that they would like to be a mentor
  • 4 committed to recruiting mentors
  • 9 committed to hosting internships at his/her organization or company
  • 4 committed to identifying internship opportunities at local businesses
  • 17 want to attend a Prosper Waco 101 event
  • 18 want to join a Strong Neighborhood Team
  • 29 want to learn more about ways to get involved in the Prosper Waco initiative

If you weren’t able to attend the Summit or didn’t get to fill out a card, make your commitment by clicking here! Collectively, we can make our own contributions to achieving the goals our community has set. If you have any questions about the opportunities to get involved, reach out to Jillian Jones in our office (jillian@prosperwaco.org) or call 254-741-0081.

To download the feedback from participants, click here. If you missed the Summit and would like to watch the entire evening, you can click here.

Henry Ford was right—it’s by working together that we, as a community, will see success.


Christina Helmick is the director of communication at Prosper Waco. She is a recent graduate of Baylor University with a BA in Journalism, Public Relations & New Media. Originally she is from Washington, D.C., but has stayed in Waco post-graduation.  She is an active mentor at J.H. Hines Elementary School, enjoys spending time with her family and watching Baylor football. Sic ’em Bears!

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

 

Your 2016-2017 Prosper Waco Initiative Report is here!

By Christina Helmick

I recently was at a communications conference in Miami and an attendee asked the speaker, “What are your tips on communicating all the great things happening in your organization and how they all fit into the bigger picture?” I moved to the edge of my seat to be sure I could hear the speaker’s response. The speaker answered with a chuckle followed by what he considered to be a communication rule —“Nonprofits rely heavily on the use of success stories to communicate. Along with the success story, make sure you tie it back into how it fits into the bigger picture. One way I’ve typically tied those two things together with is the use of data.” I thought to myself jackpot!

As the backbone organization of the Prosper Waco initiative, one of our roles is to communicate the successes of the initiative, highlight the partners involved and tie all that back to the big picture through the data that we are tracking. One way the staff pulls all of this together is through an annual report. Around this time each year, the staff produces an annual report that focuses on the progress of the initiative, the efforts within the Prosper Waco umbrella and how organizations and residents can become involved in the initiative.

The 2016-2017 Prosper Waco Initiative Report is ready for distribution! The report is the one-stop-shop for residents, organizations, employers and others to learn about the history of the Prosper Waco initiative, efforts within the Prosper Waco initiative umbrella, initiative goals, key partners and how residents and organizations can become involved in improving overall quality of life in Waco.

For example, on page 12 you will see a graph illustrating the trends in school readiness for Waco ISD pre-kindergarten students. You will notice a decrease in proficiency from Fall 2015 to Fall 2016. The graph also shows the target and overall goal of school readiness—increase the percentage of Kindergarten-ready students (which would be a target goal of 22%).

To the left of the graph of page 13, you will see an explanation of one of the many efforts addressing the School Readiness goal.  The effort highlighted is “Reach Out & Read,” a collaborative approach to improving school readiness that utilizes doctors and nurses to help parents understand the importance of reading to their children.

As you peruse the entire report, you will notice the various, cross-sector efforts, led by multiple partners, that are addressing the goals of the initiative. Pages 36 and 37 are an overview of the efforts within the Prosper Waco umbrella and what goal(s) of the initiative each is addressing.

As an organization we try to emphasize there is no silver bullet in alleviating poverty. You may think, “Gee, there is so much going on, why should we keep at it?”  Yes, our community is doing amazing work, and we still have work to do. That’s why it is so important to continue the coordinated, cross-sector conversations happening at the Working Groups.  Those conversations are helping to align activities to have the biggest impact possible.

It is also important to continue listening to the community’s priorities as in the “What’s Up, Waco?” visioning series, and integrating those priorities into the organization and systems-level conversations happening within the initiative.

And it is important to continue adding new people who are willing to invest in this work, like you. Contact Jillian Jones (jillian@prosperwaco.org or call 254-741-0081) to learn how to become involved and to request a digital or physical copy of the 2016-2017 Prosper Waco Initiative Report.


Christina Helmick is the director of communication at Prosper Waco. She is a recent graduate of Baylor University with a BA in Journalism, Public Relations & New Media. Originally she is from Washington, D.C., but has stayed in Waco post-graduation.  She is an active mentor at J.H. Hines Elementary School, enjoys spending time with her family and watching Baylor football. Sic ’em Bears!

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

 

 

 

Changing the Game by Levelling Up

By Liz Ligawa

Waco has been my home for a while now, but I am still learning how much there is to this beloved city.  For instance, did you know that there are an estimated 700 non-profit organizations in Waco?  I know- that’s a lot, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing.  With the existence of so many non-profits, I don’t question that Waco is a community that cares.  It shows me that there are many people and organizations working to make the lives of Wacoans better.  However, I am curious about a few things.  And as a result of my curiosities, I approached my work toward improving the lives Wacoans differently, and would like to share a few lessons I have learned along the way from the “What’s Up, Waco?” community visioning series.

Lesson 1: Ask powerful questions.

I have just reached my one year anniversary with Prosper Waco, and as the collective work of community change has continued, I have often been asked about the community’s priorities around this work.  What I quickly learned is that many of us in the non-profit world were interested in an answer to a question that we were not really asking.  So this year, the Prosper Waco Community Engagement Council and I focused on bringing forward community priorities through a three-series long conversation: “What’s Up, Waco?”

If you were to walk in on one of these events, you might mistake the DJ’s tunes, the green leis, and the hopeful atmosphere to be someone’s family reunion you stumbled upon.   That would be a fair assumption, but don’t overlook what is really going on– the hard work of casting a vision and building a team around that vision.

The question that started the conversation was, “What are the results you want to see?” It may not seem like a powerful question, but it is not a question we frequently ask. Whether we are working with individuals, groups, or communities, I’ve learned that it is always appropriate to ask.  The charts below map out where each community has decided to focus their work:

Lesson 2: Pity doesn’t help us listen- Empathy does.

In the field of non-profit work, and other helping professions, we find ourselves in a bit of a quandary sometimes.  We are drawn to this work because of the change we want to see in the world, but often our desire to see change in the lives of people and communities paints a certain picture in our minds about people.  We tend to see people through what data says about them, or their community.  We receive messages about people as we look solely at the schools in their communities.  We subscribe to narratives about people without even having to think about it.  Messages are constant.  Messages contribute to our understanding of people.  Messages can be completely wrong.  Try Googling the word “pregnant” and look at the images that come up.  Now, put the word “poverty” in front of the word “pregnant” and hit search.  Look at the images.  Do you notice a difference?

I work with people in communities who bear heavy burdens of the stories that precede them before they even have a chance of showing up.  Stories that are heavily influenced by an outsider’s perspective.  Stories which play a role in every interaction.  What learning has been affirmed for me in this series is that if I want to work with people, it is my responsibility to continually work at checking my biases and my pity (of whatever nature) at the door.  To commit to the hard work of listening to truth, I must listen with empathy and not pity.  When we engage people with pity, we run the risk of not affirming the agency of that person to contribute toward their own solutions for change.  When we lead with empathy, we open ourselves up to learn.

Lesson 3: People are amazing- We need to level up!

When I decided that my own answers to other people’s problems would not create the change I hope to see in our community, I was afforded the opportunity to learn a lot more about the historical narratives and processes of change each community has been through.  As they reflected on the history of their community, and started putting together strategies toward their vision, I learned how powerful truth is in the work of restoring our communities, and how important it is for that truth to be heard.  In fact, 98% of more than 100 participants that have participated in the visioning so far responded “Agree” or “Strongly Agree” to the survey items: “I feel like my voice was heard”, and “This information was helpful to me, and/or my organization”.  So, this last lesson is about my part, our part, in coming together.  I leveled up by becoming proximate to the beautiful people and communities I hoped to see change in.  I leveled up by listening to the truths they shared.  And I leveled up by choosing to see what great things already exist, and what greater things we can create together.

Will you continue to level up with me?  Our last series, “What’s Best?” will focus on putting the finishing touches on the vision, and finalizing the team that will carry this work forward.  These communities are putting in good work, and change is on the way because of it.  But it started by asking the right questions first.

What’s Best Series Event Information:

  • Saturday, Sept. 9, 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., at Doris Miller YMCA
  • Saturday, Sept. 16, 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., University High School Café
  • Saturday, Sept. 23, 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., TBD (we will send you information soon with the location!)

For more information about What’s Up, Waco?, you can send me an email at liz@prosperwaco.org.


Elizabeth 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.