Learn How To Become A Brain Builder!

By Christina Helmick

Have you heard the saying “there is an app for that?” I have an app that automatically texts people when I am in a certain area, another app that keeps track of the steps I’ve taken, and an app that organizes my grocery list based upon food categories. What about an app that provides daily activities for adults to do with children to help prepare them for Kindergarten? Well, there is an app for that too!

vroom screen shotThe Prosper Waco Kindergarten Readiness work group, along with other Prosper Waco community partners like the Cameron Park Zoo and the Mayborn Museum, are promoting a free parenting tool called Vroom. Vroom, which you can download on any smartphone, tablet or computer, provides you with daily, age-appropriate brain building activities to do with children ages 0 to 5. Each activity comes with science-based background information that allows adults to understand how that specific activity is building the brain development of the child.  To download the app, go to the App Store and search for “Vroom” or “Daily Vroom.”

If there is someone you know that would enjoy practicing brain building with their infant, toddler or preschooler and doesn’t have access to the Internet, give us a call at 254-741-0081 to receive physical copies of the Vroom activities.

Depending upon if you are an early childhood care provider, a community organization or a community member who wants to raise awareness about Kindergarten Readiness, there are different ways you can promote Vroom.

family_flyerFor example, if you are an early childhood care provider or an organization that directly deals with children ages 0 to 5 and their families, you can distribute information to your families about Vroom and hang posters around your facility! If you are a community organization like the City of Waco, you can hang posters around your workplace and include a Vroom flyer in your welcome packets to new hires. If you want to help promote Vroom on an individual level, bring Vroom flyers with you to meetings you attend and direct people to the Vroom tab on the Prosper Waco website so they can learn more about the app! To learn more ways to help promote Vroom within our community and the organizations working together to promote the app, visit our website.

Everyone in our community can use #Vroom254 to encourage brain building activities!

This free parenting tool is one element to addressing the Prosper Waco Kindergarten Readiness goal of increasing the percentage of Kindergarten ready students by 50 percent by 2020.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to Christina Helmick [254-741-0081] with questions about Vroom or how you can help promote the free parenting tool!


Christina HelmickChristina 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.

For more about Vroom see this recent Prosper Waco talk show that focuses on the app and brain building…

 

 

 

The Prosper Waco Community Engagement Council Is Growing!

By Christina Helmick

Earlier this month, the Prosper Waco added two new South Waco members to the Community Engagement Council. 1SG (retired) Leonard Montelongo Jr. and Sarah Guajardo, both born and raised in Waco, are grassroots community members who believe that by engaging the community, the Prosper Waco initiative will move forward with the community’s voice guiding the work.

montelongo1SG (Ret.) Leonard Montelongo Jr. attended all Waco ISD schools growing up and is a graduate of University High School. He served in the United States Army just shy of 23 years and is currently the Senior Army Instructor for JROTC at University High School. He is a member of the American GI Forum and the American Legion of McLennan County. He earned his bachelor’s degree from National Louis University from McLean, Virginia.

guajardoSarah Guajardo is a lifelong resident of South Waco and graduated from University High School. She currently works as an administrative assistant at the Mercedes Benz of Waco. She received her certificates in secretarial training and medical secretary from McLennan Community College. Sarah currently serves as a member and former secretary of La Benemerita Sociedad Mutualista Mexicana De Jornaleros (Mutualista) and as a member of Mighty Wind Worship Center. While living in South Waco, she has served as president of Southern Little League and as a volunteer for the Heart of Texas Young Marines. Sarah is a proud mother of four and grandmother of two.

Both Leonard and Sarah, and the rest of Community Engagement Council, are actively engaging the community through house meetings and various community events. For example, Leonard and Sarah attended University High School’s Bootcamp event to connect with parents and talk with them about Prosper Waco’s Get Help Locally resource guide. The council also participated in the Central Texas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Family Expo event held on Feb. 13. The Family Expo, which had more than 1,500 attendees, gave the Community Engagement Council the opportunity to meet, connect and interact with community members from all over the Waco area. The council is actively planning house meetings, which will allow residents of Waco to join small, intimate conversations to talk about the issues they face in their own community and about how as a community we can work to address the goals of the Prosper Waco initiative.

Needless to say, the Prosper Waco Community Engagement Council is working hard to make sure the community’s voice is guiding the work of the Prosper Waco initiative. If you’re looking for a way to have your voice heard or to get involved in the Prosper Waco initiative, contacting the Community Engagement Council is the way to go! Email community@prosperwaco.org and someone from the council will email you back as soon as they can. You can also call 254-741-0081 and the Prosper Waco team will connect you to the Community Engagement Council member for the area of Waco you live in.

I’ll end with some thoughts from Ruth Graham, one of Prosper Waco’s East Waco Community Engagement Council members. Her thoughts below reflect on engaging the community in general, and how each of us can keep in mind how to best connect with those we are trying to serve.

“Change is possible. I’ve seen it firsthand. Results are achievable with the right ingredients. Who are we to expect them to change without changing our own mindsets? What are we exhibiting in our speed and body language to this group we’re offering to help? How do we listen to and engage those whom we do not know or possibly fear? Let us start with genuine sincerity. Let us add a heap of acceptance. Let us fill it with diversity. Let us roll in the lovely accents. Let us remix the color styles. Let the ingredients in us inspire the change for the results we desire to achieve.”


We’re social! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get the latest and greatest updates on the Prosper Waco initiative, the hard work our community partners are doing for Waco and the great work of the Prosper Waco Community Engagement Council!


Christina HelmickChristina 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: Moving Forward In 2016

by Christina Helmick

The start of a new year means starting new things, right? Prosper Waco is starting the new year by working on collaborative and partner-led projects, supporting and facilitating collaborative grant applications, and engaging the community each step of the way. The projects the Prosper Waco backbone and community partners are working on address the goals of the initiative’s common agenda.

What are the specific projects?

WFENThere are numerous collaborative projects the Prosper Waco backbone and community partners are currently working on, such as the Waco Foundational Employment Network, Community Health Worker program and Project Link. Skillpoint Alliance and Family Health Center Advanced Care Management are two partner-led projects we are currently working on.

As the backbone organization, we are currently supporting and facilitating two collaborative grant applications, which are the System of Care grant and the HOPES grant. Supporting the application process of these grants is an effort to capture resources for our entire Waco community.

Each project advances the common agenda of the Prosper Waco initiative and has been reviewed and discussed by Prosper Waco working groups and steering committees.

How can I learn more about the projects?

What to expectWe’ve created a “What To Expect In 2016” report for you to download to learn more about the projects the Prosper Waco backbone organization and community partners are currently working on. As an extra bonus, we’ve included in the report a master calendar of events for 2016 and Prosper Waco’s strategic plan for community engagement.

Download the report and contact us with your feedback, questions or comments. You can contact us by calling 254-741-0081 or sending an email to community@prosperwaco.org.

How can I become involved in the Prosper Waco initiative in 2016?

There are multiple ways you can become involved in the Prosper Waco initiative. Here is a list of a few ways you can become involved:

Volunteer: There are various opportunities for you to volunteer in our community, from one-time events to weekly opportunities. Volunteer opportunities range from mentoring youth in Waco to facilitating financial literacy education classes with job training programs. Check out the Get Involved tab on our website to learn more.

Connect: The Prosper Waco Community Engagement Council wants to connect with YOU! If you are interested in having your voice heard, helping guide the work of the initiative, and want to know who you can reach out to in your neighborhood for information regarding the initiative, email community@prosperwaco.org and a community engagement council member from your neighborhood will contact you.

Attend: Our working group and steering committees are open to all community members. Visit the events tab on our website to learn about the meeting times, dates and locations. Don’t worry if you can’t make the meetings-we take notes at every meeting and would be happy to send them your way!

Subscribe: Subscribe to our monthly newsletter and stay abreast of the Prosper Waco initiative.

We know there isn’t a silver bullet to addressing the poverty issues in our community, but with the community voice guiding the work and the hard work of our community partners, collectively we can make Waco the best community it can be.

Contact us! Call us at 254-741-0081 or send an email to community@prosperwaco.org.


Christina HelmickChristina 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.

 

 

See the numbers behind the Prosper Waco goals

by Matthew Polk

The Prosper Waco initiative is about setting bold goals for positive change in our community and finding ways to reach them. The Prosper Waco steering committees of community members have set goals around the following issues that our community wants to reach by 2020:

  • More kids being ready to learn when they start Kindergarten
  • More students (and adults) finishing a college degree or certificate that will get them a good job
  • More people knowing where they need to go to get the best healthcare…and being able to afford it
  • More people living a healthy lifestyle and losing weight
  • More women receiving the healthcare they need to make sure they and their babies are healthy
  • More community members reporting good mental health
  • More youth (16-24 year olds) getting a job
  • More people getting the job training they need to make a better living
  • More people being able to save for their future

All of these things sound like positive change, but it can be hard to wrap your head around how we know whether we are moving in the right direction. To make it as easy as possible to visualize where we stand on each of these goals and whether we are going in the right direction, we have created a ‘data dashboard’ on the Prosper Waco website (www.prosperwaco.org).

When you visit the site, click ‘The Goals’ on the main menu. You will see three icons representing the Education, Health, and Financial Security goals. Click on one of the icons for a brief explanation of each goal and how we are measuring it. You can click the tab for each goal to see a chart depicting where we stand based on the data that is currently available.

Over time, we will continue to track the indicators associated with each goal and add that data to the charts so that we can all see whether we are going in the right direction. Is the number of Kindergarten-ready students going up? Is the number of overweight and obese adults in our community going down? We’ll all be able to see it as we continue to track our progress.

But be patient! This big-picture data about our community won’t change overnight…these are big needles that take a lot of effort to move in the right direction. In fact, we can’t snap our fingers and collect this data every day, or even every month. Much of this data is collected on an annual basis through a variety of local, state, and national instruments. That’s why our community has given itself five years to make the difference we want to make on these big, important issues.

If you are the kind of person who ‘reads the fine print’ and always wants to know the details, the data dashboard may be only the tip of the iceberg of what you want to know about our community. For you, we have more! Keep an eye on ‘The Goals’ page for the community scorecard that we will post by the end of November.

This scorecard is a more in-depth report on a wide range of indicators about our community. It puts the Prosper Waco initiative goals in context by providing additional data that “tells the whole story.” The initiative goals are important markers of positive change for our community, but we all know that one piece of information by itself doesn’t always paint the whole picture. The community scorecard collects many different data points and explains them in a straightforward way.

We know that Wacoans (and especially Act Locally Waco readers!) care about Waco. Even if data and numbers aren’t your thing, we want to make it as easy as possible for you to keep up with how our community is doing on the most important issues: education, health, and financial security for all members of our community.

If you have any questions about any of the information you find on our website, or if you have ideas about what it takes to improve education, health, and financial security in your community, don’t hesitate to reach out. In fact, you can use our new community engagement email address: community@prosperwaco.org!

Send an email to us at this address and you’ll get a reply either from a Prosper Waco staffer or a member of the Prosper Waco community engagement council—a community member who lives in your neck of the woods. Either way, every comment and idea is important and helps guide where this community initiative goes!


matthew polkThis Act Locally Waco Blog post was written by Matthew Polk. Matthew is Executive Director of Prosper Waco. Prior to that, he served as Superintendent of Rapoport Academy Public School. He and his wife attended Baylor, and after spending a few years in the northeast, they returned to Waco to raise their family. They have four children, ages 8 to 3 months. You can contact him at matthew@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.