Prosper Waco: We need YOU!

By Matthew Polk

The Prosper Waco initiative only works if community members come up with ideas that we can put into action together. You know more about your life and your community than anyone. You know what it will take for you to be able to take the next step toward success.

Prosper Waco is about:

  • 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 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

These are things we all want. There are ways to make them happen for people in our community. The City of Waco and this community are serious about helping people move forward successfully. But we can’t solve your problems without you. We need to work together to find answers to these challenges.

How can you help? Come share your ideas about how best to help people in our community improve their education, health, and financial security.

9.2 - Prosper waco community revisedDay: Thursday, September, 17th
Time: 6:30-8:00 p.m.
Where: City of Waco Multi-Purpose Building on Quinn Campus (next to the Doris Miller Y)
(Thanks to our awesome partners at the Doris Miller Y for working with the kids!)

No need to RSVP. Bring yourself and invite others. This is a chance for us to have a conscious community discussion about how we can work together to help people improve their education, health, and financial security. You don’t need to know anything about Prosper Waco to be able to contribute to the conversation.

People want to invest in a community that is working together. Next week will be the first visit of our partners from the National Resource Network (NRN). This team of experts is funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to assist cities that are dealing with the impact of poverty.

The NRN team visited Waco in June and was impressed with the City leadership and their support of the Prosper Waco initiative. Like many others, the NRN team commented that Waco is ahead of many other cities in taking a coordinated approach to addressing poverty-related issues and helping people improve their education, health, and financial security.

The NRN experts will be visiting Waco on a monthly basis over the next year in order to help our community implement the strategies that we decide are the best bets for achieving the Prosper Waco goals listed above. Because they have worked with cities facing similar challenges across the country, the NRN team will be able to help us identify the best practices for doing work related to improving education, addressing community health needs, and developing the local workforce.

Next week, the NRN team will be meeting with a large number of people who are involved in the Prosper Waco initiative. When they return in October, we want to be able to share with them more feedback from the community about what needs to be done to make Prosper Waco a success. This is why we need you to be part of the discussion on September 17th.

Continue to stay informed about the Prosper Waco initiative and share what you learn with your friends and neighbors. Visit our website——to find links to our monthly show on the City’s cable channel. Sign up for our email newsletter at the top of the homepage or click Contact to send us a quick comment or question. Check out the Calendar to see when various working groups are meeting, and click Get Help Locally to find resources for improving your education, health, and financial security.

Feel free to call us anytime at (254) 741-0081 for more information.

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 [email protected].

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 [email protected] for more information.


Prosper Waco: Working Groups are Getting Down to Business

By Matthew Polk

Prosper Waco has picked up momentum over the last several weeks! The Prosper Waco Board of Directors ratified the measurable goals developed by the three Steering Committees, and working groups focused on each of the goals have begun meeting to develop collaborative strategies for achieving them.

These working groups, centered on each of the Education, Health, and Financial Security goals, serve as a venue for partners to dialogue about strategies that can move our community forward. This is the nitty-gritty—community members coming together to sit down and dive deep into conversations that will lead to implementable strategies.

Each working group has met at least once in the past couple of weeks. Working groups will continue to meet over the next two months. Then, in October, each group will present the strategies they have developed to their Steering Committee.

Here is a quick update on the progress of each working group. For full minutes from each working group and a calendar of working group meetings, please visit our website.


Kindergarten Readiness: Members of this working group are focusing on increasing the percentage of kindergarten-ready students in our community. Numerous early childhood organizations were represented in this meeting. Dr. Mary Konrad, Early Childhood Education Coordinator for Waco ISD, spoke about the pre-K assessment that the district uses to assess each child’s readiness to succeed in Kindergarten. Members discussed ways to align their work around the school readiness components identified by WISD and created a list of key partners in the Waco community whose work impacts the success of children as they enter school.

Post-Secondary Success: Members are focused on doubling the percentage of economically-disadvantaged students who complete a workforce certificate or college degree. The discussion of the definition of workforce certificate was discussed, and various resources were distributed to the group so that a collective definition could be agreed upon at the next meeting. The group also compiled a list of additional partners needed to drive a community-wide approach to post-secondary success.

Family Engagement

Family Engagement working group discusses possible strategies to increase family engagement.

Family Engagement: Although there is not a measurable goal directly related to this working group, the Education Steering Committee recognized from the outset that family engagement is a priority issue for improving education in our community. Molly Young, Waco ISD’s Director of Community Development, is the chair of this group. In its last meeting, group members discussed different strategies to best engage families in the educational process and how to connect Waco families to community resources.


Access to Care: The goals for this working group are to the increase percentage of people covered by health insurance by at least 1 percent per year and to decrease the percentage of people utilizing the ER as a source of primary care by 10 percent. Like the Obesity and Women’s Health working groups, the Access to Care working group has been active for the last couple of years as part of the Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) committee, one of the initiatives that laid the foundation for Prosper Waco.

Obesity: This working group discussed strategies around high, medium and low impact ways to reduce obesity among Waco residents and how to best utilize the resources that are already in place. For example, a strategy to increase activity levels in adults and children is to use the joint-use agreement (JUA) facilities around the Waco community that are available to residents. Also, the strategy of an active living plan based on evidence-based strategies for ways residents can become active and lead healthier lifestyles was a main topic of conversation.

Women's health

Women’s Health working group meets to discuss what other organizations should be included in their meetings.

Women’s Health: Members of the women’s health group are thoughtfully considering how best to collect data to drive evidence-based strategies for meeting their goals. The group agreed to look at what other communities have done in terms of programs to reduce disparities of poor birth outcomes, increase the percentage of women receiving annual preventive care, and reduce the rate of teen pregnancy across all racial groups.

Mental Health: A variety of mental health professionals attended this meeting. Existing mental health resources were identified, and the group discussed other strategies targeted at decreasing use of local emergency rooms for mental health treatment and improving the “poor mental health days” component of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s County Health Rankings to the Texas average.

Financial Security

Employment: We had a great turn out at this meeting. During the first meeting, members spoke about who else from the community should be included to add depth to the working group. Dialogue focused on what strategies would increase employment of Waco residents ages 16-24, with the goal of cutting unemployment of this group by half over the next five years.


Income working group meets to strategize how to get employers to the round table.

Income: The income working group is focused on connecting Waco-area residents to job training and employment opportunities in order to increase the median income of people living in our community with a focus on those earning the least. The group’s discussion focused on how to build a pipeline that would effectively connect workers to employers so that opportunities for earning more income are available to more people in the community and employers benefit from a more skilled workforce.

Wealth: Helping our community build wealth means helping more families build a foundation for financial security in their lives. This starts with providing people in our community access to tools and information for managing their money and building savings that will get them through financial ups and downs. For others, building wealth means moving toward homeownership or investing in others assets that will improve their family’s net worth and financial security.

Typically, working groups meet twice a month based on the best available time for the members. You can check the calendar on our website for a list of all past and upcoming meetings! Working groups are open to all community members, regardless of your expertise in the three impact areas. Having different perspectives from community members at the working group meetings will lead to better, well-rounded strategies that will positively impact a broader range of Waco residents.

We know there are many people in the community who want to be part of the Prosper Waco initiative but cannot meet during the day due to their jobs or other responsibilities. We understand this and are working to figure out an evening time that works best for community members to be part of the discussion about meeting our shared goals.

To become involved in a working group, please email our Community Engagement Coordinator, Jillian, at [email protected], or call her at 254-741-0081. Get involved in this community-wide initiative and have a positive impact on your community!

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 [email protected].

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 [email protected] for more information.


Prosper Waco’s Goals Set by Steering Committees

By Matthew Polk

For the last three months, the Prosper Waco Education, Health, and Financial Security steering committees have been working to identify the most important issues facing our community and setting measurable goals for how we can work together to make positive change for people in Waco. They have reviewed data and community input and debated which issues should be attacked first. While there are some details to be finalized, the committees have reached consensus on a set of goals that will form the common agenda of the Prosper Waco initiative. These are big goals—goals that will take a true community effort to achieve. And if we achieve them, the entire community will benefit. What are these goals?


Kindergarten Readiness: For children to succeed in school, they have to be prepared to learn when they start Kindergarten. This means that they need a healthy start in life so that they develop strong bodies and brains. It also means that they need to know certain things (like letters and numbers) that will help them understand what the teacher is teaching so that they can stay on track academically. The Prosper Waco initiative will work to make sure that parents and families have the resources and information they need to help their children grow and learn so that more students in Waco are ready for Kindergarten.

Post-secondary completion: Students who complete a college degree or a workforce certificate have a better chance of getting a job that will provide enough income for them to support themselves and their families. To help our community members move out of poverty, we need to help more students find the college degree or certificate that is right for them and give them the support they need to finish that program. The more community members who have workforce training or college degrees, the stronger our local economy will be.


Access to Care: Too many people in our community can’t afford to see the doctor when they are sick. This means that too many people end up visiting the hospital Emergency Room when they could have saved time and money by seeing a doctor for a minor illness. The more community members who have health insurance and can afford to see the doctor rather than visiting the ER, the healthier we will be. And when more people get the primary care they need, our hospitals and emergency rooms can do an even better job of serving those who really need them.

Obesity: Obesity is a health challenge facing more and more Americans. Many communities struggle to build a culture of health that will encourage all community members to take care of their bodies so that they can be as healthy as possible. Reducing obesity by helping Wacoans understand their health, stay active, and make better food choices is a goal of the Prosper Waco initiative.

Women’s Health: Our community’s health data shows that too few women get the annual checkups they need to stay healthy. When pregnant women don’t have access to good healthcare, their babies can be born unhealthy. Babies born to teenage mothers often have worse health and education outcomes than their peers. The Prosper Waco initiative will work to make sure that all women have access to the healthcare they need and that all babies born in our community have the best chance to be born strong and healthy.

Mental Health: Mental health issues affect all types of people, regardless of race or class. Effectively serving the mental health needs of a diverse community is challenging. A lack of mental health resources means that many people must rely on the hospital Emergency Room for mental health needs. Often these patients do not receive the type of care that they most need. The Prosper Waco initiative will work to increase access to mental health resources for our community.

Financial Security

Employment: Having a paying job is the first step to financial security. There are nearly 2,000 young people between the ages of 16 and 24 in our community who are not enrolled in school and do not have a job. Connecting these young people to the workforce will give them the chance to build financial security and will strengthen our local economy.

Income: Many of our community members are working hard to make ends meet, but their paycheck isn’t enough to provide real financial security for their families. The best way to increase the income of hard-working people in our community is to help get a job that pays enough to support themselves and their family. This could mean helping them develop new job skills or helping them overcome barriers such as transportation or child care needs that may be blocking their ability to get a job that pays enough.

Wealth: Financial Security means having enough to be sure that your family can handle a financial bump in the road. Wealth is measured by a family’s assets—how much it can save and invest, how much the home it owns is worth, etc. Helping families understand how to build assets that will provide more financial security is a goal of the Prosper Waco initiative.


If we can achieve the goals set by the Prosper Waco steering committees, more people in our community will be able to get a good education, find a job that supports their family, and make sure that they and their family stay healthy. If you are interested in how we will measure our progress toward these goals, be watching our website — —where we will be posting more information about the initiative’s goals, the data that supports them, and our progress toward achieving them.

Are you interested in helping our community work toward these goals? We are building working groups that will focus on each of the goals listed above. If you want to be part of the process of developing strategies for achieving these goals in your community, we welcome you to join the Prosper Waco team. You can email Jillian Obenoskey, our Community Engagement Coordinator, at [email protected], or call her at 741-0081 to learn more about how you can be involved.

You don’t have to be an expert in Education, Health, or Financial Security to help our community achieve the goals of Prosper Waco. You just have to be willing to contribute your ideas and energy to coming up with creative ways to help people in our community measurably improve their lives.

matthew polkMatthew Polk 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 [email protected].

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 [email protected] for more information.



Prosper Waco and Community Engagement

By Matthew Polk

On February 18, Prosper Waco held its Inaugural Event at the Waco Convention Center. The event was free and open to the public. About 450 community members attended. Troy Bush, one of our partners at Episcopal Health Foundation (EHF) in Houston, commented earlier this week on how impressive it was to see so many people in one place to dialogue about community issues. Even in Houston, he said, it would be difficult to bring together 450 people for a community conversation.

But is 450 enough? How many people does it take to truly represent a community as diverse as Waco?

Some who attended the Inaugural Event wondered if a person living in poverty would have felt welcome at the very event that was supposed to be about reducing poverty. That is a troubling question. If we want to improve the overall prosperity of our community, we are going to have to work together to overcome some serious challenges associated with Education, Health and Financial Security. To do this effectively, all of us must be a part of the conversation. We need every perspective. We need the perspective of those of us who wrestle every day with the realities and practicalities of life WITHOUT solid education, sound health and secure finances.

The promise of Prosper Waco is in the bridges that we can build between big-picture strategies for community improvement and the needs of people in neighborhoods throughout the city. We have a long history of productive big-picture thinking by our public officials and by people who have had the financial resources to make big investments. Our system of Family Health Centers, our abundant water supply and the attractiveness of community jewels such as Cameron Park, the Zoo, and the Convention Center are evidence of wise, strategic, big-picture thinking that has paid off.

We also have a long history of neighborhood development. We have experienced the benefit of doing the patient work of building relationships, one neighbor at a time, even when lack of resources makes those relationships both more crucial and more difficult to maintain. The success of the 15th Street “Street of Dreams” initiative is a great example of this kind of neighborhood-level revitalization work.

Often, however, it has been difficult to find effective ways to connect visionary plans and grassroots work. Certainly there are examples of where it has happened—for example, the City of Waco housing department worked effectively with local non-profits to better serve Waco’s homeless population and dramatically decrease the number of people in Waco who suffer chronic homelessness. But it remains a challenge to build bridges between a community’s resources and the people who need to benefit from them.

The momentum behind the Prosper Waco initiative and the generous engagement of a wide range of community partners makes this the right time to successfully build those bridges, to engage the whole community, to work together.

That’s why our partnership with Troy and EHF is important. EHF has a track record of engaging communities to identify local health challenges and to develop strategies to overcome those challenges. They are experts in making sure people from all parts of a community are involved in developing the solutions that will make their community stronger. One of the techniques they have used successfully to get this kind of community involvement is to establish a Community Engagement Council. Prosper Waco has partnered with EHF and Alexis Christensen, a local community organizer, to develop a Community Engagement Council for Waco to help ensure that people throughout Waco participate in the Prosper Waco initiative.

The Prosper Waco Community Engagement Council is a group of individuals who live in some of the neighborhoods in East, North and South Waco where the challenges of education, health and financial security are felt most acutely. These are individuals who are active in the community and willing to take the time to dialogue together to think about the best ways to take the Prosper Waco initiative to people in all parts of the city.

The council members will be actively spreading the news about Prosper Waco in their neighborhoods. They will be inviting friends and neighbors to events to learn more about Prosper Waco activities and to have conversations about what Prosper Waco can mean for them. They may be reaching out to you or people you know with an invitation to have dinner and dialogue about Prosper Waco. Be on the lookout for signs of Prosper Waco in your neighborhood.

Does this type of community conversation interest you? A steering committee discussion of community data may not be your cup of tea, but a conversation over dinner with friends and neighbors may be a way that you can help build this community initiative. If you are interested in building community engagement as part of the Prosper Waco initiative—especially if you live in one of the areas of the city mentioned above—give us a call at 741-0081, or email me at [email protected] and let me know that you’re interested in being part of the work of Prosper Waco.

Editor’s note: FYI, Prosper Waco has a show on the Waco City Cable Channel.  Click here to see Matthew’s interview with Pastor C.J. Oliver, a member of the Community Engagement Council.  It is in the second half of the show after the interview with Dr. Jim Morrison. 

matthew polkMatthew Polk 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 [email protected].

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 [email protected] for more information.




What is Prosper Waco? Who is Prosper Waco?

By Matthew Polk

This is an exciting time to live in Waco. Downtown revitalization, Baylor football in McLane Stadium, Fixer Upper, food trucks…the list of great things about Waco is long and growing. There is a refreshing energy that comes from living in a place that is growing and seeing success. Everyone wants to be part of a winning team.

Most of us would agree that when a community grows and prospers, the benefits spill over to all of the community members in one way or another. A revitalized downtown means a more beautiful city, more places to shop and eat, more jobs. A winning sports program means more exciting entertainment options and visits from College GameDay. Local TV celebrities give us something to talk about with strangers on the airplane when we tell them we’re from Waco, TX. In other words, when Waco wins, we all win. This idea seems to make sense to most people.

But how often do we flip that idea on its head and look at it from another perspective? How often do we think about the fact that, when one Wacoan benefits, it’s good for the rest of us? It’s easy to see that when the community as a whole is flourishing there are benefits for us individually—sometimes it’s harder to see how one person’s success can lead to benefits for the rest of the community (unless that person happens to be named Art, Bryce, Chip, or Joanna).

Prosper Waco is about the idea that for the community of Waco to flourish, Waco’s citizens and families have to flourish. It’s about the idea that the more successful we are individually, the stronger we will be as a community. We have a special opportunity to seize the momentum Waco has and harness it in a way that benefits all members of our community. Prosper Waco is about making sure that all Wacoans have a chance to capitalize on our recent success and, by doing so, to contribute to the growing momentum.

Prosper WacoSo what is Prosper Waco? Simply put, it’s a community-wide initiative to make Waco a better place for all of us to live. More specifically, our mission statement is “to build an environment in which all people can measurably improve their education, health, and financial security.” Education…health…financial security. They are intertwined in all our lives. Our educational achievement affects our job prospects, which affects our health, which affects our financial security…and so on.

But how do you go about helping people improve their education, health, and financial security throughout an entire community? These are big, complex areas of life with lots of moving parts and many issues to consider. In order to make positive changes in these areas, a community has to agree on some goals that we can work toward together. This approach is called collective impact—a community working together to achieve goals that will benefit everyone.

If more children are academically and socially prepared to begin Kindergarten, our schools will be stronger. If more students (especially students from economically-disadvantaged backgrounds) complete a college certificate or degree, we will have a more dynamic workforce, which means our economy will grow, more jobs will be available, and more businesses will thrive. If more people in Waco have access to primary healthcare, our local hospitals will not need to provide millions of dollars a week (a week!) in uncompensated care and will be able to provide even better care for everyone. If more young people find a job, they will have a better chance of establishing a career that will provide their family with financial security and boost the local economy.

To achieve any of these things will take a coordinated effort from all of us.

So who is us? Who is Prosper Waco? You are…so are your family, your friends, your co-workers, classmates, and fellow church members. Prosper Waco is all of us pulling in the same direction to achieve some very big, very ambitious goals that will benefit everyone because more of us will be succeeding on an individual level. Prosper Waco is non-profits, businesses, churches, schools, and government agencies aligning their services and communicating about how they can work together to achieve common goals and better serve the community.

How can you be Prosper Waco? How can you get involved? Here are some ways:

  • Talk to your neighbors and friends about Prosper Waco and what you’d like to see change for the better in our community. We are all the “grassroots” that will make this community-wide initiative work, and it will take people connecting with other people to make sure that Wacoans are able to make the most of the opportunities that develop out of this initiative.
  • If you are a community member who has always wanted to be part of making Waco better but didn’t know where to start, call us and we can help you find volunteer opportunities with great local organizations.
  • If you are a “big picture” person with a strategic mind, we’d love to have you join our steering committees to help develop community-wide strategies for achieving our goals.
  • If you lead a local organization (non-profit, business, church, etc.) and want to coordinate your efforts with others to achieve common goals, give us a call or click on the Prosper Waco Affiliate logo at to indicate your organization’s interest in joining this movement.

If you’d like to learn more about Prosper Waco, give us a call at 741-0081, or visit us on the web, Facebook, or Twitter. #IamProsperWaco, and so are you. Together, we can build a Waco that works for all of us.

matthew polkMatthew Polk 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 [email protected].

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 [email protected] for more information.



What’s been happening with Prosper Waco?

by Pat Atkins

The seven of us settle around the conference table into what have become our quasi-assigned seats. There’s no food. No drinks– except for those who have brought their own cup of coffee. Some have brought thick binders of documents. Others have in front of them only the papers to be reviewed at this morning’s meeting. Each of us quietly looks over the agenda, as we have done almost every Wednesday morning at 7:30 am, since the middle of February.

The meeting begins, and Dr. Roland Goertz reports on a Houston-based foundation that has approached us about committing resources to a community engagement strategy and participatory research aimed at “understanding and including the perspectives of the intended beneficiaries in program development.” The seven begin a thoughtful discussion of the offer and where it fits into the larger framework of Prosper Waco.

Many of you have likely heard of “Prosper Waco,” the community’s collective impact initiative focusing on issues of education, health, and financial security. Over the past year, you may have heard the statistics:

  • 40% of households in Waco earn less than $25,000 per year;
  • 45% of Waco’s unemployed are between the ages of 16 & 24;
  • The median income in our community for individuals with only a high school degree is about $15,000 per year; that same median doubles to $30,000 per year, if the individual obtains an associate’s degree.

However, you are probably not familiar with the activity and planning that’s quietly taking place every week, far away from the spotlight.

The initial board of directors of Prosper Waco (Dr. Goertz, CEO of the Family Health Center, Mayor Malcolm Duncan, former Mayor Virginia DuPuy, businessman Bill Clifton, Providence Health Network CEO Brett Esrock, Rappoport Foundation Executive Director Tom Stanton, and I) are thoughtfully and deliberately laying the foundation for an initiative that will truly transform our city.

Since February, this group has:

  • Participated in a SOAR (strengths, opportunities, aspirations, results) strategic planning process;
  • Hosted community meetings on the initiative’s vision & mission statement;
  • Adopted a Vision: Waco, Texas. Empowering every member of our community to maximize his or her potential.
  • Adopted a Mission Statement: To build an environment in which all members of our Waco community are able to measurably improve their education, health, and financial security.
  • Discussed the “backbone” organization which will assist with data collection; communications, and organizational demands;
  • Formed a non-profit corporation and filed an application for recognition as a 501(c)(3) organization by the IRS;
  • Drafted Bylaws to govern the organization;
  • Adopted a preliminary 3-year budget and began securing commitments to fund the work of the backbone and community projects;
  • Secured funds from the City of Waco & local foundations to assist with initial operations and organizational work;
  • Selected a name for the initiative, with input from the community;
  • Defined the framework of the three steering committees who will be charged with developing specific metrics and initiatives in each of the three key areas: education, health, and financial security;
  • Developed over-arching, synergistic metrics to help define the work of the steering committees;
  • Worked with a communications consultant on e-mail updates to almost 200 Waco citizens who have already expressed interest in one or more of the three areas;
  • Worked with our communications consultant on the initial design of a logo and tagline;
  • Developed the structure of an expanded board of directors, including ensuring meaningful participation from the community to be served;
  • Made presentations to the Waco City Council Budget & Audit Committee and the board of directors of the Greater Waco Community Education Alliance;
  • Retained the services of Baylor faculty to lead separate focus groups of business leaders and families living in poverty to secure their input on the direction of the initiative;
  • Drafted a job description for the Executive Director; and
  • Hired a search consultant to help us find the right individual to lead this effort.

If you were an observer attending a meeting of this group, you would witness an energy, level of commitment, and thoughtfulness unmatched by any committee or board on which I’ve served. You would see dynamic individuals, approaching this work with solemnity and incredible attention to detail. One member set the tone at an early meeting, stating matter-of-factly that this may be our only opportunity to address these issues on this scale, and if we don’t get this right, we may not get another chance for 20 or 30 years.

Each member has the confidence to speak up when they disagree, and the true humility to accept another’s point of view without getting defensive or feeling attacked. There is a sincere and mutual respect among the members. Every member comes to the meeting prepared, and there are countless e-mails between meetings sharing articles and case studies.

What is taking place and what is coming together is real. It is clear that everyone in that room and many in the community understand the need to convey and nurture a sense of hope within the community. Everyone recognizes the unique circumstances that have aligned the City, Waco ISD, Baylor University, the community foundations, the business community, and so many others into recognizing that these barriers must be addressed if we are to grow our community. This is not about charity. It is a vision that recognizes we can address education, health, and financial security in a manner that allows the entire community to benefit and grow.

It has been an honor to be a small part of this process.

The next steps are to hire an executive director, convene the steering committees to do the actual work, and to officially roll-out the framework of Prosper Waco early next year!

Pat Atkins-2This Act Locally Waco blog post is by Pat Atkins. Pat is President of the Waco ISD school board and has served on the board since 2002. He is a partner in the law firm of Tekell & Atkins, LLP. He completely out-married himself, and he and his wife Sandy have three children, Benjamin (who lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina), Alexandra (a senior at the University of Texas), and Nick (a sophomore at Waco High.)  If you would like to receive email updates regarding the progress of Prosper Waco, please send a note to [email protected] expressing your interest. 

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 [email protected] for more information.