UpSkill Waco to offer first training course – Industrial Maintenance Technician

By Tiffany Gallegos Whitley

Last year was challenging and heartbreaking for so many of us. One of the bright spots in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic was seeing the various ways our community worked together.

I’m particularly thankful for the willingness of our higher education, nonprofit, chamber, and city government partners to come together and strategize how to adapt workforce training in light of our higher unemployment rate due to COVID.

After a few months of consultation and planning to structure the UpSkill Waco initiative, we are finally ready to announce the first training course will be Industrial Maintenance Technician. This is a versatile occupation that offers various pathways to family-sustaining wages. There are a number of jobs for individuals with industrial maintenance skillsets in our community, and I look forward to working with some of our business partners to connect trainees to open positions. The course will be six weeks starting the week of March 15. The time and location are not yet finalized but will be included on the online application, which will be available starting Jan. 15.

I’m thankful and excited to see the first UpSkill Waco training come to fruition. I have to give a big shout out to Texas State Technical College, McLennan Community College, and Heart of Texas Goodwill for working alongside me to coordinate and bring these training courses to neighborhoods in our city.

Anyone interested in being on the email list to receive UpSkill Waco training updates and applications can email me at

Tiffany Gallegos Whitley is director of workforce initiatives for Prosper Waco.

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 Ferrell Foster at

New workforce initiative launched at Prosper Waco; Gallegos Whitley leading

By Ferrell Foster

WACO — Prosper Waco has begun an effort called UpSkill Waco to promote coordination of workforce initiatives in Greater Waco and to provide scholarship funding for residents, particularly those impacted by COVID-19, to gain needed training or re-skilling for high-demand occupations.

Cooper Foundation is funding the effort, which will be led by Tiffany Gallegos Whitley, Prosper Waco’s new director of workforce initiatives. She will continue in her role as chair of Waco Employer Resource Network (WERN), a working group of higher education, community organizations, and employers involved in workforce development and employee retention.

Tiffany Gallegos Whitley

The goal of UpSkill Waco is to train local residents to improve their work skills in a manner that matches local job needs and to do so using a cost-effective model. 

“Working toward this goal takes coordination,” said Hermann Pereira, Prosper Waco’s senior education and workforce specialist. “Prosper Waco has met with City Council members, existing leaders of businesses in five sectors, the three Chambers of Commerce, instructors from MCC & TSTC training programs in five areas, Goodwill industries, City of Waco services and local organizers with roots in neighborhoods. Prosper Waco has gotten commitment from these entities to create an aligned system of services to provide workforce training at a reasonable cost for Waco.” 

Gallegos Whitley said the initiative is particularly focused on persons about age 18-24 who have a high school diploma but no post-high school education or training. Unemployment rates are highest among this group, she said. 

“My role was created to coordinate multiple stakeholders across the city and county to move the needle on workforce initiatives,” said Gallegos Whitley. The effort will focus on increasing the capacity of current workforce training, filling gaps in training, and providing equitable career paths to help people move into family-sustaining careers.

Prosper Waco CEO Suzii Paynter March said: “Successful workforce initiatives are based on education, training, and relevance to industry needs. Tiffany and Hermann are a talented staff team combining strengths in education and workforce success. Waco will benefit from the teamwork.”

Cooper Foundation Executive Director Felicia Goodman said: “Cooper Foundation is committed to making Waco a better and more desirable community in which to live. An important part of any healthy community is having job opportunities and trained persons to serve in those jobs. This workforce initiative will help both the people and businesses of Waco.”

The project is yet another outgrowth of the 2014 Upjohn economic development plan presented to the city. “We are building off of the Upjohn report and going beyond,” said Gallegos Whitley. “We are staying current with new data.”

“Upjohn has influenced all that we have done with workforce development in recent years, giving us a north star to guide our efforts,” Pereira said. “In this newest stage we are investing in the goals of other organizations involved in the effort.”

Gallegos Whitley has called Waco home for the past 12 years. She is a two-time Baylor University graduate, receiving a bachelor’s degree in international studies and a Master of Social Work degree. Between undergraduate studies and graduate school, Gallegos Whitley worked with the Texas Hunger Initiative, helping communities organize around food security issues. She became passionate about community development and decided to root herself in Waco.

Prior to joining Prosper Waco, Gallegos Whitley worked 5½ years with Heart of Texas Goodwill Industries, where she oversaw building strategic community and business partnerships to further Goodwill’s job training and education programs. During her time at Goodwill, she also helped implement the Waco Employer Resource Network, a national model of skills training and job retention for incumbent workers.

In her role with Prosper Waco, Gallegos Whitley will oversee workforce projects that bring together key stakeholders to collaborate and continue building equitable training and career pathways for all McLennan County residents.

Ferrell Foster is senior content specialist for care and communication with Prosper Waco.

CWJC: Receiving Leads to Giving Back

By Sara Aguirre

This is part 2 of a 4-part series on The Christian Women’s Job Corps of McLennan County. For all of the posts in this series, click here: CWJC. – ALW

Christian Women’s Job Corps is life changing. The women we serve are some of the strongest women I know. Their perseverance to overcome life’s challenges takes courage and bravery, and the women we serve have what it takes to conquer and thrive. My favorite part of my job is listening to the women share their hopes and dreams and helping them create goals to move towards their dreams. CWJC provides free programs, GED and Career Track, for women in McLennan County. 

Our GED program provides hope for so many women who haven’t had the opportunity to complete high school. CWJC provides all the materials needed, covers the cost of practice test and GED official test, tutoring, and case management. Career Track offers skills that are holistic to help women prepare for their career. Career Track offers Bible Study, Boundaries, Job readiness (resume writing, mock interviews, and job retention), computer skills, personal development, money management, guest speaker workshops, and mentoring.

Poverty, past mistakes, and failures don’t have to control your life – you can choose to take the steps to a brighter future. I’m actually an alumna of the Career Track program at CWJC. I came into CWJC without a job, phone, car, and living in a long-term recovery home due to my brokenness and choices I had made. CWJC helped me gain the confidence I needed to pursue the dreams God has put into my heart. Shortly after completing the program I went to pursue my dream, earning my degree in social work, now I’m able to give back what I have received. Never give up on the dreams God has put in your heart because with God all things are possible.

None of the work CWJC Waco does would be possible without the support of our donors and community. The transforming work done at CWJC leads to women giving back to their community. Supporting CWJC Waco brings empowerment to women across McLennan County. Join our mission by exploring ways to give at or contact us at 254-757-0416 for more information. 

Sara Aguirre is a CWJC Alumni from Waco, TX. After her time with CWJC, Sara graduated with her undergrad in social work from Tarleton State University and is currently working towards her master’s degree in clinical social work. Sara has served the Waco community since 2006 in various roles and capacities. She has worked with families in the foster care system through the Department of Family Protective Services. Sara is an active member of Antioch Community Church where she has served in the youth ministry, overseas missions, and guest services. Sara is passionate about working with individuals who have experienced trauma and who want to be equipped, empowered, and transformed by the healing power of Jesus. Sara enjoys going to ball games, traveling, learning, and having meaningful conversations over a cup of coffee!

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 for more information.

CWJC: Staying In and Stepping Up

This is part 1 of a 4-part series on The Christian Women’s Job Corps of McLennan County. For all of the posts in this series, click here: CWJC. — ALW

By Lydia Tate

“I want to show my son school doesn’t have to be scary.”

“I have the confidence to dream again.”

“I found my calling.”

“CWJC gave me the skills and the foundation I needed to actually live.”

As I read these words just over 10 months ago on a local charity’s website, my pulse quickened, and I got goosebumps. I read on to find that CWJC not only impacts the Waco area – but chapters of this organization impact women around the world. More goosebumps. Nurturing women, transforming lives…Equip, Encourage, Empower…some of their key slogans and more great reasons to align with CWJC Waco. I sent my resume to the Board of Directors, I prayed and asked God to equip me.

Christian Women’s Job Corps (CWJC) of McLennan County is a dynamic organization empowering the lives of women over the age of 18 in our area. The women who seek CWJC out are hungry for change, transformation, and accountability to meet their goals. They are often scared too. With the help of our steady volunteers, women receive one-on-one mentoring, case management, tutoring, and training. Our classes include money management, computer skills, job retention, resume building, interview skills, communication, Boundaries, GED prep, Bible study, and personal development topics. With a holistic, goal-oriented, positive approach, women graduate from CWJC’s programs feeling empowered and confident. And they’ve done this since 2003 for hundreds of women with the help of thousands of volunteers.

Like I said before: goosebumps.

Becoming a part of CWJC’s mission was like diving into a beautiful lagoon. It was easy to see why so many lives were being changed and why I got “all the feels” reading testimonial after testimonial. Then as I learned more – I saw how deeply invested in the community CWJC was and is becoming. I believe deeply in what I’m seeing modeled by CWJC – partnership is powerful. From our community partners to our volunteers, our donors to our interns – partnership is powerful.

CWJC Waco is on a partnership journey right now: normally we would be preparing for our annual dinner and silent auction on Sept. 22 called Baskets of Hope – a celebration of CWJC’s impact to be sure. With COVID coming to town, we knew going into the summer that this event would be compromised.

Staying In and Stepping Up” was the necessary choice CWJC made this year. Our grand celebration of the great work CWJC does has had to take a pandemic shift to This year we traded the party for “the ask.” This year we are asking for GED scholarships so 100 women can get their GED in the year to come. This year we are asking for laptop fund donations to help us provide for technology needs in light of our enhanced need for digital instruction in the pandemic. This year we are asking for monthly donations that can be matched by our underwriter, TFNB – Your Bank For Life. And this year, instead of tables and baskets – we ask for your generous sponsorships that provide Joy, Hope, Faith, and Love to the women of CWJC. Join CWJC in the mission of empowering lives by Staying In and Stepping Up at or call 254-757-0416 for more information.

Lydia Tate has happily called Waco home since 2011, after spending most of her life in the Houston area. During her time as an undergrad at Houston Baptist University, Lydia found a passion and calling for the work of women’s ministry. The joy of bringing women together to support each other became a career in nonprofit work at Sigma Phi Lambda as their first national Executive Director. Lydia is inspired by the great work that CWJC does in the community. She would love to share conversation with you over a warm beverage and chat about the mission of CWJC and how you can be a part of its vision. Lydia can also be found singing, playing piano, playing board games, and serving at her church, Calvary Baptist. She also enjoys life with her husband, David, their three sons, and their amazing dog, Cami.

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 for more information.

Waco Research and Technology

By Jodi Terwilliger-Stacey

Waco is the research and technology corridor between Dallas and Austin. It boasts top quality education in science, technology, and engineering at its local colleges and universities – Texas State Technical College (TSTC) (offering students approximately 100 certificate and degree areas), McLennan Community College (MCC) (offering students cutting-edge technology and opportunities for field research), and Baylor University. It’s the home of the Central Texas Research and Technology Park with its most recent project – the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC)! It’s the birthplace of the Greater Waco Advanced Manufacturing Academy, offering academic programs and workforce readiness in a variety of fields to high school students from local ISDs. Waco’s Drop Back In to School Initiative connects those seeking higher education and better jobs to representatives of these local colleges and universities, as well as representatives of local job readiness programs!

Check out MCC’s LEAP classes (Learning Environment Adaptability Project), serving to develop full-time, first year students’ skills that enable them to adapt to college life and to be successful in their courses of study. LEAP classes teach learning strategies, as well as emotional intelligence skills, such as self-management skills (being motivated and managing one’s time), intrapersonal skills (self-esteem and stress management), leadership skills (problem solving and conflict resolution), and interpersonal skills (managing anxiety and anger and being assertive). LEAP is innovative and broad-spectrum, making MCC a leader in the development of strategies to increase student retention and success in higher education.

Watch for more information about the BRIC’s 45,000 square feet workforce development and training center to be used by TSTC – a BRIC partner. BRIC scientists, engineers, and technicians will be developing technology for BRIC business clients. TSTC Waco faculty will be on site working with those developing the technology and consulting with BRIC clients to design workforce training as products are being developed. Now that’s innovative!

Would you like to join the workforce with a career upon graduating from high school? The Greater Waco Advanced Manufacturing Academy will be offering academic programs to high school students from local ISDs in the fields of welding (fall 2013), precision metal manufacturing (fall 2013), brick laying and construction (fall 2014), HVAC (fall 2014), and pipe-fitting (fall 2015)!

Waco is paving the way for its citizens to come back to education, to achieve their higher education goals (certifications, 2-year degrees, and 4-year degrees), and to begin careers in a variety of science and technology fields where workforce needs are greater. Waco is connecting the dots among industry leaders, the STEM community (science, technology, engineering, and math), college and university faculty, and other leaders in workforce training. By doing so, there’s only one direction for Waco – FORWARD.

This week’s post was written by Jodi Terwilliger-Stacey. Jodi founded the Low Income Families In Transition (L.I.F.T) workshops at First Baptist Church in Waco and worked at the Greater Waco Community Education Alliance as a community resources specialist.  She and her family now live in Colorado, but she still has a warm spot in her heart for Waco.  If you are interested in writing occasionally for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ashley Thornton at .  

I speak math; you speak math; let’s all speak math!

By Ashley Bean Thornton

I was lucky enough to get a tour of the BRIC (the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative) a few weeks ago. It is inspiring! As an old English major I love the symbolism of the BRIC, representing our hopes for a prosperous future, rising from the ruins of the Old General Tire building, an artifact from our economic past. As an old English major I also feel compelled to say one more thing: I have seen the future, and the future is – math.bricpic

With the WISD Advanced Manufacturing Academy, TSTC and the BRIC we have a nice little conveyor belt developing for moving our young people into good paying high tech jobs. The ticket to get on that conveyor belt is a decent ability to do math.

Waco needs to be a math town. I need to be a math cheerleader! This is a new role for me. (Did I mention I was an English major?) I may not be able to do much to help make Waco the math capital of the Southwest, but I can change the way I talk about math to the kids I know.

From now on when I hear a kid say, “I hate math.” Instead of saying, “I know, I hate math too.” I’m going to say, “Math was hard for me too, but it feels good when you finally figure it out; it gets kind of fun if you stick with it.”

When I hear a kid saying, “I’m dumb in math.” Instead of saying, “I know! Math stinks! Let’s eat ice cream.” I’m going to say, “It’s probably not that you are dumb in math; you probably need more practice. Nobody is that good at it at first. You’ll get better the more you practice.”

Yes, I know a kid’s success in math depends more on her teachers and her parents and probably a jillion other things than on my little pep talks. But, it is something I can do, and I’m going to do it. Join me? We’ll think of something more significant to do later, but we can at least do this. As an old English major I believe the words we speak into our young people make a difference. Go math!