Mental Health in Congregations: A continuing ed course from Amberley Collaborative

By Meg Wallace

The first appearance of a mental illness can be terrifying, whether you are the one experiencing it or someone you care about is falling ill. Your mind is muddled, a crisis is gathering steam, and you know you need help — but where to begin? Who will help you find your way?

Chronic depression or anxiety can be isolating. You drop out of your usual activities because it hurts too much to start your day, or you fear you’ll have a panic attack in public. So you stop getting together with friends, and you miss one more Sunday at church. You retreat gradually, and no one notices you’re gone. You’re alone.

Amberley Collaborative has created a continuing education course called Mental Health in Congregations, offered through McLennan Community College Continuing Education beginning Tuesday, Jan 19.

Of course, professional help can make an enormous difference in your life. Medication can reduce your symptoms, and a therapist can help you sort things out. But living with a mental illness can be a day-to-day struggle, or bouts of worsening symptoms may disrupt a period of recovery. It can be a hard road, so hard to walk alone.

In many communities of faith, people commit to walking together. But walking with someone struggling with chronic depression or anxiety can challenge our empathy. We want our friend to snap out of their distress, and when they don’t, we’re unsure how to share time with them. A youth attempts suicide, or a member has a manic episode. They are receiving professional help, and we know we shouldn’t leave them to walk alone between therapy appointments. But the situation feels scary and confusing. What do we do?

Decades of research indicates that people in distress often turn to faith communities for support. When the congregation’s response is healthy, it can be a key aspect of recovery for people living with mental illness. But when the response is negative or unhelpful, congregations can do harm. Continuing education can help faith communities respond helpfully — accompanying people living with mental illness and supporting their recovery.

Amberley Collaborative is a new Waco nonprofit that aims to strengthen community support for people with disabilities and other challenges. In our Mental Health in Congregations initiative, we started by talking to leaders at 23 Waco-area congregations to learn how they’re walking alongside people who are struggling and how they’re helping them access professional services. We also wanted to know how these leaders take care of themselves while they care for others, and we asked what kind of support Amberley Collaborative could provide.

The leaders told us they want help figuring out how to organize care in their congregations so needs come to light and people are supported. They need to know more about mental health services and how to access them. They want to learn about various types of mental health challenges and what kinds of responses are helpful, and they want training on what to do in a crisis. They talked about needing to care well for themselves as they care for others. They want to increase the caring capacity of their faith communities by equipping Sunday school teachers and small group leaders to foster wellness in the groups they lead.

With guidance from these faith leaders, Amberley Collaborative has created a continuing education course called Mental Health in Congregations, offered through McLennan Community College Continuing Education beginning Tuesday, Jan 19. The presenters are mental health professionals, pastors, and people with lived experience of mental illness, and each of the six 90-minute sessions is interactive, with plenty of time for dialogue. Our goal is not just to deliver information, but to create a community of care that will last long after the course is over, and to connect participants with mental health professionals who will continue to support their good work in the future.

Please join us. You can learn more about the class on the Amberley Collaborative website. To register go to the MCC website.

Meg Wallace, MA, LMSW, is a 2018 graduate of Baylor’s Garland School of Social Work. She founded the nonprofit Amberley Collaborative to cultivate the kind of community care her own family has needed while grappling with disability. She continues to work as a freelance editor and book indexer while developing the nonprofit.

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 [email protected].

P-20: Promoting College and Career Readiness in Central Texas

By Fred Hills

Preparing local students for successful journey through school and college to careers is critical to the well-being and growth of our community. Started 8 years ago, the HOT P-20 works to promote streamlined, transparent degree pathways for students to move quickly and successfully through their education and onto college and/or a career.  The Heart of Texas (HOT) P-20 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 HOT P-20 mission can best be summarized as follows:

  • Collaborating by building cross-community team to address education and career possibilities for all students.
  • Informing our diverse communities about ongoing initiatives, best practices and available resources.
  • Advocating for educational best practices with at the state and local levels.

Some of our ongoing projects include:

  • Academic Vertical Alignment Training and Renewal (AVATAR) program that brings together faculty from the high schools and post-secondary institutions who teach Math, English, College and Technical education, and STEM to discuss differences in instructional techniques and ways to better prepare students for college-level work while in high school.  AVATAR also include high school and college counselors to address ways to better advise students in preparation for their transfer to college and/or a career.
  • Building closer ties between education and industry under our Groundhog Job Shadowing initiative celebrated on February 2 each year promoting job shadowing, internships, externships, career fairs and industry visits.
  • Partnering to support local educational initiatives and programs such on Region 12 ESC’s Connect 3, Teacher’s Gone Tech, Girls in STEM, career fairs, etc.
  • Building collaborative agreements among secondary, post-secondary and industry to offer degree pathways and college preparation courses for students while still in high school.
  • Providing an annual forum on “State of Education in Central Texas” in the Spring to share ongoing educational initiatives and career preparation opportunities.  This year’s event is scheduled for April 20 from 11:30 to 1:30 PM at MCC’s conference center.  All are welcome.
  • Working with Prosper Waco and the Waco Chamber to inform them on ongoing educational initiatives and promote education to career programs.
  • Surveying the community for ways to better serve all partners in this effort.

HOT Regional P-20 operates as a voluntary organization.  For more information on the HOT P-20 and its programs, check out our webpage at http://www.hotp20.org


Dr. Fred Hills is the current president of the HOT P-20 and Dean of Arts, Science and Business at McLennan Community College.  He has worked and lived in the Waco community for over 20 years and has served on the HOT P20 for the last four years.

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.

It takes a village … to get a child through college and into a career!

By DeShauna Hollie

I’ve always liked the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child”.  Most of us have heard that phrase at one point or another in our lives. It is a phrase that often comes to mind when I think of our educational system, in fact I would go so far as to say that “it takes a village to educate a child.” Over the past century we have done a phenomenal job in establishing an educational system that not only educates large numbers of students, but that is also continually striving to understand how to give each student the best education experience possible from early childhood through college.

Along with giving all students access to good teachers and quality curriculum, research also indicates that strong community support is one of the pivotal pillars of a successful educational system. (Darling-Hammond, 2010) This community support can look like a lot of things. For example in our own community we have a plethora of wonderful support systems that include but are not limited to:

  • Mentoring programs
  • Parent teacher organizations
  • Local and national nonprofits that take an active interest in our local schools

The community groups make up our village and make it possible for our teachers and administrators to focus on the great work that they are doing inside of the classrooms. We have laid a strong foundation for each student’s educational success. With these support systems in place we can now move on to the next phase of the work in providing each student with the best educational experience. That work includes helping students and families better connect their high school education with their college and career goals.

Using the model of collective impact Prosper Waco and MCC are actively engaged in multiple exciting initiatives to address the overarching goals of increasing college completion rates of students in McLennan County. With a grant from the TG Foundation we are using these questions to guide us in our work:

  • How do we raise the college completion rates of economically disadvantaged students?
  • How do we raise the college completion rates of Men of Color?
  • How do we provide information in a way that aids in a seamless transition for students from high school into college and into their career field so that they may take their places in society?

Again I’ll mention that it takes a village to educate a child. As a Waco local who also happened to have been a first generation college student myself, I know firsthand what it is like to navigate the paths between high school, college and career with community guidance. In the coming weeks we will delve further into all the ways that we are working towards the goal of increasing college completion rates for Mclennan County students.


DeShauna Hollie is the Pathways Specialist with the Project Link program. She is currently working on Master’s of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction at Greenville College. She is also an aspiring hops farmer and really likes riding her bike.

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.

Notes: Darling-Hammond. (2010). The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future. New York: Teachers College.

 

 

 

We’re Exploring Questions that Matter to our Community – Join us for Scholar Day!

By Fred Hills

Inquiry. Research. The ability to come up with questions and actively, rigorously pursue answers to those questions is at the heart of education.  It is the key to life-long learning, to new inventions, to solving problems, and to improving the way we live and work together in our community and in our world.  Just as important as being able to find answers is the ability to communicate findings clearly so that they can be of use to the wider world.  At McLennan Community College, students practice inquiry and research throughout the academic year.  We would like to invite you to hear about some of their findings and to see for yourself how well they communicate what they have learned in their explorations.

scholars fairEvery fall and spring semester McLennan Community College conducts an event to showcase student research projects.  The event, called Scholar Day, is an opportunity for students from across campus to share the results of their inquiry and the impact it has on our community.  Participating students come from a wide variety of disciplines including Biology, Chemistry, Engineering, Management, Marketing, Music, and Respiratory Care, among others.

Research projects at MCC are student initiated with faculty helping guide them through their exploratory work.   Students then present findings through scholarly presentations, exhibits, poster boards, art work, music, and prototypes with the campus and the community.   Research not only prepares the student for their chosen career path, but will help them if they choose to further their education beyond MCC.

scholars fair 2This semester’s program includes over 20 presentations that address timely topics affecting our world today, for example undocumented students in higher education, using vitamin C to fight cancer, and the effects of violent video games on gamers.  Several presentations tackle medical topics, like adult respiratory distress syndrome, interstitial lung disease, and LSVT BIG and VOICE therapy on Parkinson’s disease.  Scholar Day will also include a few unique items, such as sculptures, painting, and pottery from the Fine Arts department, and inventions and “Rube Goldberg” machines from the Engineering department.  Last fall saw over 300 students participate, a number that continues to climb each semester.

Come join our students in the excitement of academic inquiry and exploration!  If you would like to attend MCC’s Scholar Day, it will be at Highland Gym on Friday, April 22 from 10 to 1 PM.  All students and community members are invited to join us.  If you need any more information, please contact Dr. Staci Taylor at [email protected].


 

Fred HillsDr. Fred Hills is the current president of the HOT P-20 and Dean of Arts, Science and Business at McLennan Community College. He has worked and lived in the Waco community for over 20 years and has served on the HOT P20 for the last four years.

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.

Here’s Your Chance to get a Clear Idea of the State of Education in the Heart of Texas

by Fred Hills

Few things are more important to the prosperity of our community than our educational systems. As citizens, it is our responsibility to keep up to date on the state of those systems, but that is sometimes difficult to do. Where can you get objective information about how well the schools systems are performing? How can a “lay” person get in depth information about some of the important decisions being made that have the potential to affect our children and our economic prospects? How can we get that information we need to be informed, responsible parents, teachers and community members when it comes to education? Fortunately, an opportunity is on the horizon to help us do just that.

MCC 50 logoThe Heart of Texas P-20 Council & Prosper Waco are cohosting this year’s State of Education in the Heart of Texas on Tuesday, April 19 from 11 AM to 1:30 PM at the McLennan Community College Conference Center. The community is invited.

The forum will provide statistics and information on the progress of local educational efforts followed by panel discussions giving students, industry partners and educational leaders the opportunity to share their perspectives on education in central Texas. Prosper Waco will also share their ongoing efforts in bringing together collaborating partners from the greater Waco area in cooperatively addressing educational issues in our community.

We are honored to have Texas’s House Representative Jimmie Don Aycock as our lunch keynote speaker. Rep Aycock represents District 54 and currently serves as the chair of the Public Education Committee and a member of the Defense & Veterans’ Affairs Committee. He will share his perspectives on educational policy in Texas.

The agenda is as follows:

  • 11:00-11:10 a.m.: Introduction by Fred Hills, Heart of Texas P-20 Council and Matthew Polk, Executive Director of Prosper Waco
  • 11:10-11:30 a.m.: Presentation: Statistics of Education in the Heart of Texas
  • 11:30-11:50 a.m.: Industry Panel Discussion
  • 11:50-12:10 p.m.: Student Panel Discussion
  • 12:10-1:00 p.m.: Lunch & Keynote Speaker, Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock
  • 1:00-1:30 p.m.: Updates from the Heart of Texas P-20 Council and Prosper Waco

Registration cost is $15 which includes lunch. All are invited and welcome to register at Region 12 ESC’s website txr12.escworks.net/catalog/search.aspx, Session #88565. If you have any questions about the forum, contact either Fred Hills at [email protected] or Chris Holecek at [email protected].


 

Fred HillsDr. Fred Hills is the current president of the HOT P-20 and Dean of Arts, Science and Business at McLennan Community College. He has worked and lived in the Waco community for over 20 years and has served on the HOT P20 for the last four years.

Participate in “Groundhog Job Shadow Day” and Help Give a Kid a Chance to Learn about the World of Work

By Christine Holecek

Groundhog Job Shadow Day is a unique initiative dedicated to giving kids job groundhog logoshadowing experiences. Groundhog Job Shadow kick-off day for 2016 will be February 2. On that day we will officially get going started on what we hope will be a spring blooming with job-shadowing opportunities in the Heart of Texas. The idea is to give more of our Waco area students opportunities to “shadow” a workplace mentor as he or she goes through a normal day on the job. This gives the student a chance to get an up-close look at how skills learned in school relate to the workplace.

p-20 logoGroundhog Job Shadow Day is the joint effort of the Heart of Texas P-20 Council, Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, Waco Business League, and Prosper Waco. McLennan Community College, Texas State Technical College and school districts in the Heart of Texas Region are also partners promoting this event.

Job Shadowing is a Win-Win situation for all involved. For students it answers the age old question “Why do I have to learn this?” Shadowing demonstrates the importance of academics in reaching college and career goals. Shadowing also motivates students to learn by demonstrating the tangible application of classroom lessons.

For employers, Job Shadowing helps build a future workforce. Shadowing shows students career possibilities in different industries. Also the employee mentors get the feeling of personal satisfaction that comes from mentoring a young person. This opportunity offers a chance to share knowledge and skills and to help a child become a successful adult. Sometimes shadowing even leads to a long-term mentoring relationship.

Whether you are an employer, volunteer or teacher, participating in Groundhog Job Shadow Day is an easy and rewarding experience. Getting involved in Groundhog Job Shadow Day will only take a few hours of your time.

If you are an educator or an employer who would like to get involved, you can contact Christine Holecek at [email protected]. The HOT P-20 has posted some helpful job shadowing documents for you to share at: http://tinyurl.com/zynwu2r

For more information about the HOT P-20 Groundhog Job Shadow Day, please contact [email protected]


Christine HolecekThis Act Locally Waco blog post was written by Christine Holecek. Christine is an Education Specialist at Education Service Center Region 12 in Waco. She has worked in the area of Adult Education and Career & Technical Education for the past 25 years. She earned an AAS degree from MCC, a BAAS and Master’s Degree from the University of North Texas and is currently enrolled in the Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Tarleton State University.

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.

AVATAR in the Heart of Texas

(The Heart of Texas P-20 Council includes representatives from K-12 education, higher education and employers. They meet regularly to help coordinate efforts to launch our young people into productive lives as workers and citizens. This post is one in a monthly series of posts intended to share information about the work of this important group in our community. For more posts in this series, click here: P-20 education. — ABT)

By Christine Holecek

AVATAR is not just an icon or figure representing a person in a video game and it is not a blue hybrid alien from a movie. AVATAR in the Heart of Texas stands for “Academic Vertical Alignment Training and Renewal.” It is a joint project, now in its third year, organized by the Education Service Center Region 12 (ESC Region 12) and the Heart of Texas P20 Council to bring together local school districts and local colleges to collaborate on high school transition to college.

AVATAR logoYear one looked specifically at High School English Courses (AP and Dual Credit) and expectations for college English courses. Critical conversations were held on the alignment that needs to happen for students to be more successful in college. Great strides were made. For example, high school and college teachers worked together to develop a tool for all teachers to use to grade essays consistently and holistically.

Year two’s project added math to the equation. Representatives from both ELAR (English, Language Arts and Reading) and Math disciplines began discussing the College Preparatory course requirements introduced by House Bill 5 in 2012. These course offerings are now required by the legislature to help students be better prepared to enter college without remediation. High School and College ELAR and Math teachers worked with McLennan Community College (MCC) to develop a course that was made available the fall of 2014. School districts interested in using the college prep course can complete a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with MCC.

A College Prep Course symposium was held in September 2014 to introduce school districts to local college offerings. Representatives from McLennan Community College, Texas State Technical College, Hill College, Temple College, and Central Texas College provided an overview of their new College Prep Courses that provide course content in English/Language Arts and Mathematics. Each college representative answered specific questions related to course design and MOUs. This symposium offered a format that allowed participants to attend one or all of the college overviews.

Year three’s focus brought counselors into the fold. Their discussions about college transition will result in a “Frequently Asked Questions” document about what students need to know as they transition to college. The counselors are continuing their work together with critical conversations around college and career readiness, dual credit courses and college prep courses. They have been meeting once a month (February – May) to discuss trends and issues in college and career readiness. Counselors will also review and critique college and career readiness products: such as the Texas Online College and Career Readiness Resource Center.

Planning for year four has begun. Career and Technical Education (CTE) teachers will be asked to contribute expertise into high school endorsement pathways. Six year plans will be created in the areas of Business and Industry, Public Services, and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).

For more information about the AVATAR program, please contact Christine Holecek [email protected]


Christine HolecekThis Act Locally Waco blog post was written by Christine Holecek. Christine is an Education Specialist at Education Service Center Region 12 in Waco. She has worked in the area of Adult Education and Career & Technical Education for the past 25 years. She earned an AAS degree from MCC, a BAAS and Master’s Degree from the University of North Texas and is currently enrolled in the Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Tarleton State University.

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.