Tami’s Big Do Over: “Howdy” It’s Welcome Week

(Tami Nutall Jefferson, a married mother and grandmother, is going back to school and she has invited us all along to enjoy the ride.  For more posts in this series, click here: Tami’s Big Do Over.  – ABT )

By Tami Nutall Jefferson

In the middle of a conversation about nothing, I said, “Honey, I’m going to Howdy Week.” “What’s that?” While searching for an accurate description, and realizing that I didn’t know myself, It’s a week of parties!” just flew out of my mouth – and with such exuberance. The look I inspired was not a pleasant one. His response, “You can say ‘Howdy’ on Facebook.” I insisted that I must go. I knew I could seal the deal when I mentioned that I was going to the StartUp RoundUp student entrepreneur extravaganza. I don’t think his buy-in increased much. Nevertheless, welcome week — here I come!

The Backstory

There are several opportunities for students to ease into college life during the summer. The first is Fish Camp – a freshman tradition. One that I coveted as a local high schooler. But when I started receiving correspondence this year about it, I was like “just…no.” Then, there is T-Camp. Initially, I was excited about this. A camp just for transfer students – most of whom would NOT be 18 years old. I logged on to the website to find out more. Reasonably priced. Aggie Traditions. Make friends. Sign me up! Then I read the list of ‘items to bring’. The first three items listed were “pillow, pajamas, and blanket.” Wait. What the what?? This is a real damn camp!! I just closed the page. But then, you have “Howdy Week.” A chance to be a part of the Aggie community, participate in 2 hour events, AND sleep in my own bed. Perfect, I’m in!

It’s To Be Expected

I’m going to set out my expectations here. “Universe! I expect you to deliver.” Even though I’m 42 years old, I do have the same type of excitement and brand-newness that I would have had if I were 17 years old. I just don’t have the energy and heat tolerance.

  • So my first expectation is that this week is going to really push me out of my comfort zone – which is everything at my fingertips in a chilled 72 degree environment.
  • Half of me expects to capture my entire experience on social media – the other half of me expects that I will not want to (as I will be living in the moment).
  • All of me expects to never have to pay for food and be fully stuffed on hot dogs, hamburgers, and Slovacek sausage – apparently, another Aggie tradition.
  • I do expect to make at least 1 new friend (who is not a professor or employee). One of 30,000 is possible, right?
  • I expect to not nap during the day. I repeat, NOT nap during the day. That’s called ‘reverse psychology’ for the non-academics in the audience.
  • None of me expects to get ‘college-girl’ wasted. For some reason, that is my husband’s expectation though. Then I’ll be another college statistic. “Really, sir?”
  • But in the end, I do expect to come back with at least one funny to tell you. If not, then I did not do my job as a…well…person. Every person should have at least one funny during any given week, right? And yes, I use funny as a noun, not an adjective.

Well, What Had Actually Happened Was…

So, now it’s the Monday after Howdy Week. Let’s recap, shall we. I made it to Howdy Week on Thursday. So my week, turned into a weekend. For some reason, I just couldn’t tear myself away from my exciting Waco life and my work projects to go and do basically nothing. As long as I’m there for StartUp RoundUp on Friday I’m good. And I was. And it was 6 hours of non-stop free gourmet food and million dollar business advice.

AND, I forced myself (now or never) to do the impromptu open mic business idea pitch contest – 30 seconds, no Q&A. And from that I did make 1 new friend. Later in the day, I made a few more. It was awesome! I did take several pictures, but I purposefully reminded myself not to selfie everything. But, not one Slovacek sausage! Instead of getting ‘college-girl’ wasted I got the equivalent of ‘fat-kid’ wasted. I ate so much this weekend. I don’t want to see food anymore this semester. Coincidentally, my favorite biz idea at StartUp RoundUp was from the guy who created the UniBees app that let’s you scroll through all the free food offerings on campus. Be still my tummy!

And I did get that funny. It’s in my Facebook album along with my photo ops and biz pitch video. My environmental comfort zone needed no pushing, as the weather in Bryan-College Station

was rather lovely the entire weekend. My naps were off the chart though, as all Howdy events were cancelled, and the rain makes one want to caress the bed all day.

Now, It’s Official

I am an Aggie! And a pretty strong and resilient woman. But, in the last five days, I have experienced every spectrum of emotion – loneliness, happiness, despair, hope, sadness, excitement, love, fatigue, disappointment, rejection. A lot of that from me walking around A&M alone.  Experiences ranged from me being dismissed by someone who I thought was a professional colleague to imaginations of my daughter & grandson hailing a boat ride just outside of the doorstop or my sister & baby nieces sitting atop of their second story roof. I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to be a true college freshman having to face all of these emotions this week – especially since so many of my fellow Aggies come from the coastal area. But my greatest hope now, is that we have no Silver Taps ceremonies for our current or former students. I hope that everyone is able to enjoy the belated semester start date, and I hope that as urban planning, construction, and design students we can continue those Facebook conversations we started about better infrastructure design, and building design, and stormwater management so that this weekend doesn’t happen again. God Bless Texas.

Tami Nutall Jefferson has over a decade of experience in real estate sales and management and currently works as a home and building designer. This Fall she will begin her first academic year at Texas A&M University pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Urban Planning and Real Estate Development while commuting between Waco and College Station. Her hope is that Waco becomes the most attractive, modern, vibrant, and prosperous version of itself as an inclusive city and her professional mission is to help make that happen. Tami is also a 2017 graduate of the Leadership Plenty Institute and volunteers her time and voice to many downtown Waco placemaking and economic development causes and organizations.

To engage and share your non-traditional student experiences with Tami, contact her at taminutall@gmail.com or connect with her on Facebook https://m.facebook.com/tami.nutall1

QR FIT Trail Systems in Waco Parks

By CeRon Ford

The summer climate and abundance of parks with green meadows make the City of Waco an ideal location for outdoor fitness. On a typical day, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the breeze feels divine! Why confine yourself inside a gym for a workout? The QR Fitness Trail System allows you to replicate many gym exercises in the outdoors and all you need is your smartphone!

Through funding made available from the Texas Department of State Health Services and the Texas Healthy Communities grant, the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District and Live Well Waco have partnered with the City of Waco Parks and Recreation Department to have the QR FIT Trail system installed and ready to use in 11 neighborhood parks this summer. The QR Fitness Trail System will provide the perfect opportunity for community residents to lead an active lifestyle without the cost of a gym membership or fitness trainer.

The QR Fitness Trail System has been installed around walking and running trails in 11 parks throughout Waco:

  1. Alta Vista Park
  2. Bells Hill Park
  3. Bledsoe-Miller Park
  4. Brazos Park East
  5. Brooklyn Park
  6. Council Acres Park
  7. East Waco Park
  8. Gurley Park
  9. Kendrick Park
  10. Oakwood Park
  11. Oscar DuConge Park

The QR FIT Trail is a high tech fitness course designed for individuals of all ages. It is comprised of a series of signposts placed along the parks, and each sign post or station features Quick Response or QR codes that link a user’s smartphone to workout instructions and instructional videos. Park visitors will use the camera on their smartphones to scan the QR codes on each sign. Each workout station offers 4 workout options that focus on core, upper body, lower body and flexibility. For the users who may be intimidated by the difficulty of exercises, the fitness system provides users the option to select beginner, intermediate, or advanced. Free QR Code readers are available through smartphone app stores. Also, no additional fitness equipment is necessary in order to perform these exercises.

Alexis is a 27 year-old Waco resident who has set a goal to lose 15 pounds before her sister’s wedding in the next couple of months. Like many others, money is tight for Alexis. She does not have the funds to hire a fitness trainer or pay for a monthly gym membership. Alexis heard an ad about the QR Fitness Trail System while listening to the radio on the way to work one morning, so she decided that she would try the QR Fitness Trail System later that evening. Alexis mentioned that she briefly played volleyball in high school, but she has not dedicated much time to her physical fitness since then. However, since using the QR Fitness Trail System at her local park, Alexis has lost a total of five pounds just within a couple of weeks. When asked how effective has the QR Fit Trail System been, Alexis responded, “I think this is a great tool with a great purpose. It’s quick and easy for me to use, the trainers from the workout videos show me how to actually perform the exercise for my specific body area, and it costs me nothing!” Alexis also stated, “I would love to see more community members use this system, so I plan to invite my friends to use the QR Fitness Trail System so that they can get in shape too!”

In the age of cable television, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, it’s a great idea to travel beyond the screen or the front door and use your smartphone for something that will benefit you in the long run—like your health! There are many physical and mental benefits of exercising outdoors.

Research has proven that exercise help control and prevent the following:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Arthritis and much more

Studies have also shown that exercising outdoors can help people think more clearly, burn more calories, increase family time, meet your neighbors and save money. The right amount of fresh air and sunshine can be almost impossible to beat. Don’t let the summer pass you by, get to one of these local parks and get fit!

The QR Fitness Trail System is an awesome way to promote health and fitness in the City of Waco. This system is the best thing since sliced bread! The fitness system allows smartphone users to lose weight, get in shape, explore the neighborhood, experience the outdoors, and enjoy the beauty of Waco. Pick up your smartphone, grab a bottle of water, and head to one of these local parks!

Have questions about the fitness system? Want to show off how you and/or your friends and family us the QR Fitness Trail System? Share your photos and videos with us (@livewellwaco) on social media, and remember to include the hashtag #WacoQRFit.

CeRon Ford moved to Waco in August 2013 to attend Baylor University. He received his Bachelors of Science in Public Health, and had the opportunity to intern at the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District as a Live Well Waco intern during his final summer in Waco. CeRon will further his efforts of pursuing public health by attending Morehouse School of Medicine’s Master of Public Health Program in Atlanta, Georgia, In the Fall 2017.

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.

Photo Credits: CeRon Ford Photography, Courtesy of Waco-McLennan County Public Health District, 2017

Caregiver Empowerment Groups: That they would know their own power, collectively and individually

by Sara Beth Stoltzfus

My name is Sara Beth Stoltzfus and I am a case manager at MCH Family Outreach. At MCH Family Outreach, we provide support to families through in-home case management services, parent education and caregiver empowerment groups. Until recently, what we now call our Caregiver Empowerment Groups were only open to relative caregivers (grandparents raising grandchildren, aunts raising nieces and nephews, etc.) I have been facilitating these support groups for almost three years now and as we transition to a new schedule and more inclusive format (all caregivers of kiddos are welcome!), I wanted to reflect on why these groups are so important.

I googled the definition of support, because support is one of the key elements of the groups. Some definitions I found were “to bear all or part of the weight of; hold up,” “give approval, comfort, or encouragement to” and “to be actively interested in and concerned for the success of.”

After reading these definitions, I thought to myself, “Yes! Exactly! This is already happening in our groups.” The caregivers who attend our groups each month are absolutely giving comfort and encouragement to each other. And while no one person is holding all of the weight of another person in the group, all in the group are bearing witness to each other’s joy, struggles and the general craziness of parenthood, listening and holding the space for one another.

I am always delighted when after the hour-long group is done, I see two grandparents exchanging phone numbers to meet up. And while I am bound to confidentiality, I think it is great when a caregiver asks me how someone is doing who has not attended the group in a while. I have witnessed a true concern for the success of others in the group.

One definition of empowerment as defined by Wikipedia is “the capacity of individuals, groups and/or communities to take control of their circumstances, exercise power and achieve their own goals, and the process by which, individually and collectively, they are able to help themselves and others to maximize the quality of their lives.

I love this definition. When caregivers of children get together to support one another, ultimately the goal is to maximize the quality of their own lives and their children’s lives, individually and collectively. Increasing a caregiver’s power and more importantly, knowledge of their power, is key. A mother who thought she was failing in so many ways will realize that there are plenty of moms who think they are failing too. A grandmother who thought there was no hope for her child with sensory needs realizes there are many other grandmothers with similar kiddos and that there are resources out there for her grandchild. With this new knowledge, she will realize, I CAN do this. I am able to support my child.

In a very independent society, caregivers need support as they also need to support others. Caregivers need a place for vulnerability and tears as well as joy and laughter. Through this mutual support, we hope that caregivers will be empowered, becoming stronger and more confident, in control of their lives.

Our hope is that they would know their own power to create beautiful, connected, empowered children.

We invite anyone caring for a child to come to a Caregiver Empowerment Group. Every new voice in the group is impactful and your story can empower another caregiver.

Caregiver Empowerment Groups will be held on the 2nd Tuesday of September, October and November, one group in the morning from 11am-12pm and one in the evening from 6pm-7pm. The groups will be located at MCH Family Outreach at 1111 Herring Avenue Waco, Texas 76708. Call 254-750-1263 for more information!

This Act Locally Waco blog post was written by Sara Beth Stoltzfus. Sara Beth is a Social Worker at MCH Family Outreach through the Methodist Children’s Home. Sara Beth is originally from Pennsylvania but has been living in Texas for more than 6 years, 4 of which have been spent in Waco. Sara Beth enjoys spending time with her husband, James, and dog, Bud, as well as with her church community, Hope Fellowship. Sara Beth also enjoys participating in social justice work with other Wacoans.

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.








Official Statement of The Waco NAACP on The “Unite The Right” Hate Rally In Charlottesville, Virginia

By Peaches Henry

To be clear, this is not a Right or Left, Republican or Democratic, North or South, or Black or White issue.  This is a matter of right or wrong.  We are confronted with a life and death moral dilemma.  We must decide whether to take a stand against those who advocate racism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia.  A united body of Blacks, whites, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Democrats, Republicans, and like-minded individuals willing to reject purveyors of hate will defeat their attempt to take this country back to a very dark place.

We must publicly denounce these attitudes and behavior.  To remain silent is to condone it.  To equivocate is to give it cover.  This must not be the message of our nation or of our leaders.

The Waco NAACP condemns the blatant, heinous acts of hate groups and so too should those who respect our country’s most treasured values.  To many African-Americans, Jews, and others, the images of armed Ku Klux Klanners, white nationalists, and neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville seemed like a horrific nightmare that recalled decades of intimidation, violence, and murder.  Tragically, those scenes were all too real as these groups gathered in a so-called Unite the Right rally to “take America back.”  In 2017, carrying guns, knives, and other weapons, the KKK marched on Charlottesville.  White supremacists with torches surrounded a church filled with African-American ministers and their allies.  Intending to evoke the 1930s Hitler Youth marches, Neo-Nazis conducted a torchlit parade through the campus of the University of Virginia shouting Nazi slogans:  “Blood and soil!” “You will not replace us!” “Jews will not replace us!”  Minus the hoods of the twentieth century, these mostly white young men instead proudly exposed their faces and wore white polo shirts and khaki pants.  Former KKK leader David Duke and white nationalist leader Richard Spencer were conspicuously present at the events.

The intimidation of the parade and march was followed up the next day by actual violence.  White supremacists savagely beat African-American Deandre Harris in a parking lot.  Two state troopers, who were monitoring the event from a helicopter, crashed and died.  The KKK, white nationalists, and neo-Nazis armed with shields and wooden clubs charged and attacked a group of counter-protestors.  The protestors fought back.  Ultimately, a white nationalist (allegedly) deliberately drove his car into a crowd of counter-protestors killing Heather Heyer and wounding 19 others.

The president’s repeated refusal to unequivocally condemn these hate groups demonstrably serves to embolden them.  The president must be called out for failing to show moral leadership.  To do so is not a partisan tactic.  It is simply right.  Casting blame on the counter-protestors, who chose to defend themselves, is reminiscent of charges brought against civil rights marchers in the 1960s who were called violent when they were attacked by white citizens, law enforcement, and the KKK.  The president must not give quarter to the KKK, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis through ambiguous rhetoric or false moral equivalency.  African-Americans, indeed all Americans, need the president to unreservedly side with us against the purveyors of hate.  Period.

We must all stand together against those who are uniting for hate.  Make no mistake.  Richard Spencer and his cohorts will not stop with Charlottesville.  While Texas A & M has prevented a rally “inspired by [Charlottesville’s] “Unite the Right” event, that will probably be a temporary situation.  The hate groups are coming.

The racist damage at Willow Grove Baptist Church demonstrates that they are already among us.  Those who would minimize the incident at Willow Grove as teenaged vandalism, misjudge the case.  If the damage was perpetrated by teenagers, that is both tragic and dangerous.  Tragic, because it means young people have imbibed racist, bigoted ideas.  Dangerous, because youth can be violently impulsive.  We must engage our youth and teach them that the KKK terrorized and lynched African-Americans and burned their churches for decades.  We must teach them that the Nazis exterminated homosexuals, the intellectually disabled, gypsies, and six million Jews.  And we must love them, because love transforms and redeems.  However, to reclaim these young people we must recognize that evil is among us.

My own personal experience proves that hate groups are already here.  On Sunday July 16, while sitting in church, I started to open the Bible app on my phone and was inundated with racist text messages calling me “nigger,” likening me to images of monkeys, declaring that the texter had “the power to keep niggers down,” and referring to the “NAAC Pee Pee.”  [And no, I will not use the “n-word.”  The writer of those texts did not call me the “n-word.”  He repeatedly called me “nigger.”]

This moment in our country requires us to face hard truths about our racial history.  For instance, we must face the fact that most of the Civil War statues and memorials around this country were erected with the express purpose of re-asserting white supremacy over African-Americans after Reconstruction, during the Jim Crow era, and after the Civil Rights Movement.  Some may argue that they were erected to recognize our history.  Yes, the Civil War is a part of our history.  It is the history of people who left the United States and waged war against it in order to keep Black people enslaved.  That objective was written into the constitution of the Confederacy.  Some may argue that the Civil War was fought over states’ rights.  States’ rights to do what:  to enslave Black people.  The Nazi era is a part of Germany’s history.  You do not see statues of Hitler sprinkled around that country.  Whether these statues remain, come down, or are removed to museums, they represent a flashpoint of conscience which this country must confront.  The purveyors of hate have made their position clear.  The rest of us must decide which side of history we are on.

The Waco NAACP will continue to be steadfast and immovable in the fight against discrimination, prejudice and hatred.  The Waco NAACP is prepared to meet, march, and hold rallies that counter the racist, white supremacists ideologies that these groups espouse.  The Waco NAACP will persist until we drive out racism and racist actions.  We will accept all people of good will who are willing to stand with us.  And we are not afraid.

Dr. Peaches Henry is a graduate of the University of Texas. She received both her master’s and doctorate in English from Columbia University in New York. She is an English Professor at McLennan County Community College.   She is the current president of the Waco McLennan County branch of the NAACP. Join and support the NAACP with your dollars and your resources: waconaacp.org.