Heart of Texas P20 Council Fall 2019 Update

By Hermann Pereira

The start of a new school year is an exciting time for students and educators alike. As educators we are focused on making this school year better than the last because we know our students are depending on us. The HOT P-20 council is equally focused and excited about making the 2019-2020 school year better than ever. There is a contagious feeling of collaboration and growth in our city and we are seeing this in our P-20 council as well.

The HOT P-20 works to bridge the gap and create partnerships between K-12, institutions of higher education (IHE), the business community and the community of Waco.  The council is a collective impact think tank that brings together representatives from the independent school districts (ISD), institutions of higher education (IHE), Region 12 Education Service Center, industry and government across six counties: Bosque, Hill, Falls, Limestone, Freestone and McLennan to work towards this goal.  Among the higher education representatives are McLennan Community College, Texas State Technical College, and Hill County with representation from both Tarleton State University, Texas Tech through MCC’s University Center.

The P-20 goals are to :

  • Promote college and career readiness for all students in the network
  • Build bridges and partnerships among school districts, higher education, government and industry
  • Promote promising and best practices and models
  • Provide educational and support resources to member institutions

We have seen lots of growth in our group and that is due to everyone’s collaborative spirit they bring to each and every meeting. I had a mentor once say that “there is power in showing up”. I am proud of the work we have accomplished and that is due to the community that “shows up” and rolls their sleeves up for the success of all students in our area.

You are invited to join our meetings that take place at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce.

October 1st 8:00 am

December 3rd 8:00 am

February 4th 8:00 am

April 7th 8:00 am

If you would like to be a part of our newsletter please email HOTP20Council@gmail.com


Hermann Pereira is the current chair of the HOT P 20 council and the Principal of Connally Career Tech P-Tech Early College High School. He is a Houstonian who roots for all Houston sports teams but has called Waco home for over a decade. He is married and has two children.

Friends for Life Celebrates 30 Years of Service

By Inez Russell

This month Friends for Life is celebrating 30 years of serving the elderly and people with disabilities.  We are having an Open House on September 24th from 5 to 7 and we are saying thank you to other agencies, organizations and individuals who have helped us take care of people in need. 

In September of 1989, Friends for Life began in a tiny one-room office, with one unpaid employee, and a budget of nothing.  Now, by the grace of God, Friends for Life has grown and now resides in a wonderful 28,000 square foot facility at 5000 Lakewood Drive with offices in six other cities, eighty-five paid employees and a budget this year of three million dollars. 

In the beginning, Friends for Life visited elderly people who were alone in hospitals and nursing homes.  Those visiting programs have grown into Quality of Life Programs that include adopt a grandparent, telephone reassurance, Gifts for Grannies & Grandpas, too, and Friends for Thanksgiving.  We look for ways to let people know we care and that they have someone they can call if they need help.  When we were asked to visit people in their own homes, we learned that many needed more than a visit.

We found one lady living in the dark.  She moved from room to room as the light bulbs burned out in her house and when the last one burned out, she was living in the dark.  We started a light bulb changing program.  Another agency asked us to help an elderly man whose porch was so rickety they thought volunteers might fall through if they brought him meals.  We started a minor household repair program.  An elderly woman became wheelchair bound and was stuck in her house for five years because she did not have a ramp.  We started a ramp-building program.  These programs grew into Independent Living Programs where volunteers are recruited and trained to help the elderly and people with disabilities live in their own homes as long as possible.

Each time we discovered a need, we tried to find another agency that provided that service so we could connect them to the person who needed their help.  If we could not find another agency to provide the service, we figured out how to do it ourselves. 

When he was found unconscious, an elderly man needed someone to sign for him to have medical care and Friends for Life was appointed to serve as his legal guardian. 

Thirty years later, we are serving about 500 clients in 50 counties in Texas.  Friends for Life has the third largest guardianship program in the state behind Harris County and the State of Texas.  This program provides protection from abuse, neglect and exploitation, and insures these vulnerable people have food, clothing, medical care….someone to advocate for them and someone to care.  When possible, we work with our guardianship clients to help them build capacity and return to court to request that the judge restore his or her rights.

In 1995, Friends for Life began a Money Management Program when asked to take care of an elderly widow who was about to be evicted because she had not paid her rent in a year.   Most of the clients served through this program have been exploited.  We make sure their bills are paid and that their money goes to their care.

Friends for Life took over the adult day care program in 2000 that was scheduled to close.  Open 7:30am to 6pm, Monday through Friday, the Friends for Life Adult Day Care Center provides nursing care, activities, meals, transportation and more.  Taking 4 field trips a week and celebrating holidays most people do not know exist (National Jelly Bean Day, Macaroni Day, National Cheesecake Day – they are big on food holidays).  The clients are having a lot of fun….so much fun, in fact, that the facility is almost always at full capacity which is 120 people.

Two years ago, Friends for Life started a new program training adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities to learn skills that will help them be more independent.  Working one on one with them everyday for 2 hours made all the difference in the world.  The overarching goal of the program is to help people move out of the nursing home and four of our clients have moved out of their nursing homes and back into the community.  We are working with two more to do the same.  And, all seem to have benefited so much from this individual attention.

I interviewed a Life Skills Training professional once who was not sure she could figure out how to help these clients.  She prayed about it and the answer came to her.  ‘Start with love’.  In everything we do at Friends for Life, we try to start with love.

To learn more about Friends for Life, to volunteer or to make a donation to support this work, please visit our website at www.friendsforlife.org, call 254-772-7600 or come by our office at 5000 Lakewood Drive in Waco and we will give you a tour.


Inez Russell is the founder of Friends for Life and has served as its Executive Director for the last 30 years.  She is certified in guardianship on a state and national level and is President of the Board of Directors of the National Volunteer Caregiving Network.  Inez has lived in the Waco area most of her life.  She is married and has four children and eleven grandchildren. Inez@friendsforlife.org, 254-772-8100 ext. 106

CampusTown Connect helps area college students plug-in to Waco

Applications for Campustown Connect Fall 2019 are open until September 20. Click here to apply!

By Lexy Bishop, Research & Project Manager at the Greater Waco Chamber

The beginning of a new school year can bring all sorts of emotions for students. College juniors and seniors have some especially deep and looming questions: What am I doing after college? Where do I want to put down roots? What jobs do I apply to? We at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce understand those concerns and believe that the Waco community just might be the answer those concerns.

CampusTown Connect was birthed out of the CampusTown initiative, whose mission is to connect Waco area students in higher education to the opportunities available to them in the community. Through the six-week program, CampusTown Connect offers students the ability to explore the ins and outs of the Waco community and be introduced to the ways that they can take root in the city after graduation.

“CampusTown helped me understand the people and places that make up Waco’s identity and its culture,” Baylor senior Isaiah Scott said. “Understanding how the Waco community operates interconnectedly can give you a great appreciation for the city, especially as a college student.”

From the history of Waco to its budding entrepreneurial scene to learning the city government structure, students will dive into the community of Waco beyond their campus. The goal at the end is for students feel connected to their peers in other area colleges, connected to the community, and connected to the right people and job opportunities as they begin their career. “CampusTown Connect gave me access to really good connections in Waco,” second-year TSTC student Ashley Fullerton recounts. “It showed me different areas to give back to the community and confidence to get more involved on my own campus.”

Students who are interested in staying in Waco or even just exploring the option are encouraged to apply! The class is a two-hour a week commitment for six weeks beginning on October 1. For more information or to download an application, please visit wacochamber.com/Campustown-Connect.


Lexy Bishop is the Project and Research Manager for the Economic Development team at the Greater Waco Chamber. She considers herself a Waco Enthusiast and loves supporting local entrepreneurs. You can find her sipping on a Pinewood coffee or working on her new home in Dean Highlands.

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.