And What Will You Do With This?

By Christina Helmick

Every time I’m asked to give my feedback, a little voice in my head says, “what will you do with my feedback? Will it be used to inform the next steps?” I feel like so many have these same thoughts after being asked for feedback. And the skepticism is understandable. If feedback is constantly asked for, but not used to inform the work, then why would people keep giving feedback? This question was at the forefront of our minds when we created the discussion-based breakout sessions at the 2016 Prosper Waco Summit.

On Sept. 19, more than 500 community members came together at the Waco Convention Center from 4-8PM for the 2016 Summit. During the event, participants heard a brief overview of the initiative’s history, along with some of the efforts currently being implemented in the Waco community and what community partners are involved in those efforts. Following the opening session, participants were strategically placed in three different rooms to ensure cross-sector representation of Education, Health and Financial Security were at each table.

During the breakout sessions we asked participants to talk amongst their table, and then the larger room, about solutions our community can implement to address the community’s goals. We worked hard to compile the feedback from the different breakout rooms. You can click here to read all of the feedback compiled from the breakout sessions, and if you view the pictures below, you can see the solutions that were identified more than once throughout the rooms.

education

health

stability

It is important to remember that the above solutions weren’t the only solutions people identified! With more than 500 community members identifying solutions, there were some solutions that appeared across all three rooms, which we captured in the above diagrams.

So the burning question remains…what will be done with this feedback?

Post the Summit, all three Steering Committees met to debrief about the event. During the meetings, committee members reviewed a document that captured all of the feedback, along with a separate document that had solutions that were specific to Education, Health and Financial Security. Some of the solutions crossed one or more strand of the initiative, which furthers the notion that the three aims of the initiative are interconnected.

After having small table discussions, the floor opened up for discussion around what support will be needed from the community to implement some of the solutions identified. Steering Committee members identified bringing other partners to the table, funding and learning more about existing programs in the Waco community as different types of support that would be needed. The feedback captured at the Summit will also be used to inform the work of the working groups by connecting what the community has identified as a solution to the work that is being implemented within the initiative.

We will also utilize the community’s feedback to help inform the work of our Community Engagement Council.  During the house meetings the council hosts, they ask for thoughts and perspectives about the solutions identified during the Summit. The Council will continue to ask community members about their personal ideas and solutions to reach the community’s goals by 2020.

We understand not everyone was able to come to the Summit and voice their thoughts, ideas and solutions, which is why we welcome (and strongly encourage!) you to send us your thoughts by contacting us via email [email protected] or calling 254-741-0081.

As always, this work is driven forward by the hard work of our community and there is always an open door for you to become involved and share your thoughts. If you’d like to become involved, email Jillian or call 254-741-0081.


Christina HelmickChristina Helmick is the director of communication at Prosper Waco. She is a recent graduate of Baylor University with a BA in Journalism, Public Relations & New Media. Originally she is from Washington, D.C., but has stayed in Waco post-graduation.  She is an active mentor at J.H. Hines Elementary School, enjoys spending time with her family and watching Baylor football. Sic ’em Bears!

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.

 

 

 

The Innkeeper

By Liz Ligawa

For a long time, I adhered to a belief system which denied a connection between personal experiences and collective realities.  The individualism in which my upbringing was brined did not fully prepare me to dignify the personal realities of others.  I filed the stories of others as exceptions to the truths I already held…well, that was until I began to realize how much the stories I dismissed shared similar characteristics, outcomes, properties, etc.  So, I began to wonder, “Could my estimations be wrong?”  Thankfully, my novice perspectives were challenged, and I grew to appreciate how the truth of individual experience sheds light on systemic or, collective realities.  It is a good thing this transformation occurred before I found myself in social work as a community practitioner.

So, here I am.  I joined the Prosper Waco team as the Director of Community Engagement on August 1st, and I am grateful for the strong ways my theological, and social work training prepared me to understand, and affect change in systems which can function to oppress, or marginalize- even when those are not the intended consequences.  If you cannot tell, advocacy is my strong suit.

By now, you might be wondering: “What does this post have to do with its title?”  Well, it is a little embarrassing to admit, but even with one month at the organization under my belt, the hardest question for me to answer is still, “What is Prosper Waco?”  Now, now…before you encourage my boss to consider replacing me with someone else with greater acumen, let me just say, this is not an easy question to answer.  Ask my boss.

One of the reasons I think I have had a hard time putting Prosper Waco into a more familiar context (even for myself) is that it is an organization which has philanthropic roots, but colloquial branches.  Let me explain what I mean.  Philanthropy, or its Greek beginnings, φιλανθρώπως, adds up to acting humanely, kindly, or promoting the welfare of others.  Although the activities of Prosper Waco are philanthropic in the sense that they are driven to promote others’ welfare, the initiative does not fit a popular interpretation of philanthropy- one that has a monetary expression of benevolence.  Instead, it operates, philanthropically, through collaboration among structures (organizations, companies, institutions, etc.) which already exist, and are familiar to the local community.

So, what does this have to do with the innkeeper?  Well, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, there seems to be just one hero; or we think of the parable with our focus narrowed to just one helpful way to respond.  But do we limit the good we can do by only filling the role of the Samaritan?  In saying that, I realize there are several layers to this story.  There are strong themes to be mined about the culture, biases, and social context- but that’s a study for another time.  What I am curious about, however, is how our view of this narrative shapes, and informs our perspective on altruism.  Do narratives like the Good Samaritan encourage altruistic behavior?  I am not yet convinced.

Personally, I feel that the parable is more of a “calling out” than it is a “calling to”, but I also cannot ignore its utility in the conversations around who receives our help.  However, what I think is important to pay attention to is the emphasis, and in my opinion, over-emphasis on individual efforts towards help.  I wonder if we are less-likely to help if we feel like we are the only ones that can help.  And if we approach helping others with the idea that it is all up to our individual efforts, how does that influence our interactions with our neighbor, and what do we miss by not seeing how others are also helping?

What I see when I look at this parable is philanthropy administered through collaboration, trust, relationship, and hope.  I see collaboration because after the Samaritan placed the man on his donkey, he did not take him home.  He took him to the inn.  I see trust because when the Samaritan arrived at the inn, he did not stay with the dying man, but he entrusted him to the care of the Innkeeper.  I see relationship because the Samaritan informed the Innkeeper that he would pay for additional costs on his return, and the Innkeeper agreed.  I see hope because the Samaritan and the Innkeeper had to feel that their combined efforts would make a difference in the life they had encountered.

Promoting the welfare of others takes this type of attention…collaboration, trust, relationship, and hope.  The dying man received help from what was already existing.  We have a full cast of characters in our community.  We have the wounded.  We have those who tend to help in individual ways; but since they become easily overwhelmed with work that requires partnership, they go the other way if they can’t accomplish it alone. Most importantly, though, we also have those who are interested in what good we can to together.  No, we do not adhere to the single story of the Samaritan being the only hero.  We gladly accept the role of the Innkeeper.


 liz ligawa - 2Elizabeth Ligawa is a recent graduate from Truett Theological Seminary, and the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, earning both her Master of Divinity, and Master of Social Work.  Though her prized role is being a mother to her dear son, Elijah, Liz has a love for encouraging people to come together in ways that engender healthy communities.  Her role as the Director of Community Engagement at Prosper Waco allows her the room to work in and among the many faces of her beloved Waco community. She may be reached 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.

 

 

 

 

 

Your Community. Your Voice. Your Summit.

By Christina Helmick

It has been about a year and a half since Prosper Waco hosted the Inaugural Event that drew more than 400 community members together to discuss the issues the community wanted to prioritize when the Prosper Waco initiative kicked off.  

In September of this year, Prosper Waco is hosting its Annual Summit Event. It will be an opportunity for our community to come together to celebrate the progress we’ve made since the initiative kicked off in January of 2015 and to have integrated conversations around other issues that our community wants to undertake to work on in the future. Below is a quick outline of how the Summit will flow this year: 

  • Opening Session: this will be a chance for our community to celebrate the progress that has been made since the initiative kicked off in January of 2015. As the staff, we really want to celebrate the hard work that has been (and is being!) done in our community. This initiative wouldn’t move forward without the will of cross-sector community partners, which is why we strongly believe in having a celebration of the successes in the opening session!

Prosper Waco History: A brief history of the Prosper Waco initiative will be given during the opening session so all attendees can enter the integrated conversations with the background knowledge of the extensive community work the Prosper Waco initiative was built upon.  

  • Integrated Conversations:  Many of your attended Prosper Waco’s Inaugural Event in February 2015, where education, health and financial security were split into different rooms to be able to dive deep into specific issues within those three impact areas. This year, we are taking a slightly different approach. As staff, we have heard from all levels of the community and involvement in the initiative that people who are involved in education want to learn about what is being in health and financial security, those involved in health want to learn about education and financial security….you get the idea. Community members want to know about what is being done in the areas they don’t work in or attend meetings in. By having integrated conversations with perspectives from education, health and financial security at the same table, all will be able to talk about issues our community wants to undertake with the feedback from all areas the Prosper Waco initiative is focused on. Keep reading to find out who the facilitators will be! 
  • Closing Session: The closing session will be a feature a dance performance from the well-known, local dance group Miriam’s Army! We are so thrilled to be working with Restoration Haven to have these talented girls perform a tap dance routine for Summit attendees. After the performance, guests will enjoy delicious food from none other than George’s Restaurant! To close the event, Dr. Tyrone Tanner will talk with Summit attendees about how systematic change happens through collaboration and partnership—exactly what is happening in the Waco community! His energizing talk will leave us all ready to head into to the new year ready for more collaboration and hard work!

At this year’s event, we will have three expert facilitators in each of the rooms to help guide the framework of the conversations. We believe having third-party facilitators will allow all members of the community—including the Steering Committee and Work Group Chairs—to have the opportunity to listen to community feedback and think strategically about how community partners can tackle certain issues as it relates to education, health and financial security. Click the links to learn more about the facilitators: Dr. Larry HillDr. Tyrone Tanner and Dr. Luis Torres. 

This event is truly created with the community in mind. We want each person, whether they have been involved from this initiative from the beginning or just heard about it through our Fox 44 News PSA, to know they are encouraged to come to this event! 

It’s very easy to register! You can give us a call at 254-741-0081, sign up by clicking this link or send me an email at [email protected]. 

If you have any other questions, comments or want more information, don’t hesitate to reach out to me! I’m so excited for this event and to hear the feedback from each of you at this event about what other issues our community wants to undertake.  

In the wise words of Henry Ford, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” 


Christina Helmick isChristina Helmick the director of communication at Prosper Waco. She is a recent graduate of Baylor University with a BA in Journalism, Public Relations & New Media. Originally she is from Washington, D.C., but has stayed in Waco post-graduation.  She is an active mentor at J.H. Hines Elementary School, enjoys spending time with her family and watching Baylor football. Sic ’em Bears!

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.

From Around The World To Waco

By Christina Helmick

When people first learn that I’ve lived all around the world, their immediate question is “why Waco?” I’ve really come to love answering that question.

Here are a few things you should know about me:

  • CH armyI’m a military child (GO ARMY! BEAT NAVY!)
  • I’ve moved more than 12 times in my life (before college)
  • I lived in Italy for two years during high school
  • My dad served three tours in Iraq
  • Waco is the place I’ve lived longest in my life (going on six years!)

All of that to say….I’m an expert packer.

Some people cringe at the idea of moving so often; I wouldn’t change a thing about how I grew up. I have met dynamic people and learned about different cultures first hand. I became the outgoing person I am today through the hundreds of “new kid ice breaker” games I’ve had to play. I also got a chance to live in different cities, ranging from Fort Riley, Kansas, with a population of a little over 8.000 to Arlington, Virginia, with a population close to 400,000 people. Each city opened my eyes to how the world works, and I learned to love a city for the unique experiences it has to offer.

Being a recent Baylor alumna, I enjoyed the Waco community while I was in school. I got involved in a local church and gained insights about Waco from community members that have lived in Waco their entire lives. I knew after I graduated from Baylor I wanted to stay in Waco. That sentiment is becoming more and more common. Many of my sorority sisters are looking for jobs in Waco so they can move back. More and more recent college graduates are wanting to stay in Waco and forego that enticing Dallas-type salary because the quality of life is better in Waco.

Waco embodies what I believe to be an up-and-coming city. It has the nightlife, the young professional environment, great education institutions, a culture of collaboration between community organizations and a thriving downtown area. Our community does have certain issues to work on together, which are being addressed through strategic conversations between community partners within the Prosper Waco initiative.

I believe in this town and I hope you do, too! To learn more about the efforts our community is taking to address the issue of increasing education, health and financial security, visit www.prosperwaco.org. You can also register for prosper Waco’s Annual Summit Event, which will be held on Monday, Sept. 19 from 4:00-8:00 p.m. at the Waco Convention Center. The Summit will be an opportunity for our community to come together to celebrate the progress of the initiative in the last year and discuss the vision for the initiative moving forward. Dinner and childcare will be provided for Summit attendees. Here is the link to register!

summit


Christina Helmick isChristina Helmick the director of communication at Prosper Waco. She is a recent graduate of Baylor University with a BA in Journalism, Public Relations & New Media. Originally she is from Washington, D.C., but has stayed in Waco post-graduation.  She is an active mentor at J.H. Hines Elementary School, enjoys spending time with her family and watching Baylor football. Sic ’em Bears!

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.

Data: A Necessary Force To Measure Impact

By Brittany Fitz-Chapman

Data doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming.  If you think about it, you have been using data your entire life to assess your well-being.  For example, for every assignment you completed in school you were awarded a grade.  At the end of high school, you were given your class rank based on your grade point average.  When you feel sick, you take your temperature.  Data has been informing your decision making process for a long time.  You can use data at a community-level, as well. Data enables us to assess the well-being of our community and allows us to measure the impact programs and organizations are having.

Prosper Waco has been tasked with monitoring the health and well-being of our community through a series of data points, or what data people call “indicators.”  Just like changes in body temperature may signal that you are getting sick, changes in community-level indicators suggest how healthy we are as a community.

When you are sick, your first reaction is to treat the symptoms, right? Let’s say you have a stuffy nose from allergies. You will go to H-E-B, use some Vicks rub and hope you get better. But, to cure the stuffy nose from allergies, you’ll need to go to your doctor and get allergy medicine.  Prosper Waco community partners, organizations, community members and all others involved in the community-wide initiative ultimately want to treat the causes, not just the symptoms of our community’s health.  The indicators we monitor allow our steering communities, working groups and community partners to treat the causes.

vroom logoFor example, community members, organizations and leaders in Waco decided to make school readiness a priority, and the Prosper Waco Education Steering Committee developed a measurable goal for our community—to increase the percentage of Kindergarten-ready students by 50 percent by 2020.  The working group has collaboratively discussed different projects, programs and initiatives they can all rally behind to help address this goal. One initiative community partners are rallying behind is Vroom. Vroom is an app that you can download on your smartphone, tablet (be sure to select “iPhone-only” apps!), or computer that provides daily, age-appropriate brain building activities adults can do with children ages 0-5 to help prepare them for Kindergarten. Each activity is paired with an explanation of the science behind the activity, allowing the adult to understand how that specific activity is developing the brain of the child.

Within the Prosper Waco working group that is focused on Kindergarten readiness, affiliate organizations have been collaborating and talking about other ways they can all work together to help create a culture of family engagement that prepares children to thrive when they enter the classroom. One example is a partnership between Waco ISD and the Mayborn Museum. They are developing a free Science Night for the children and families in our community.  This Science Night will allow families to interact with their children at the museum, discuss the different exhibits and experience everything the museum has to offer! Using data from the school readiness monitoring tool, WISD and the Mayborn Museum can tailor the educational content of these nights, and they can use the data to help target their efforts on school campuses that may be struggling in the science content area.

The Prosper Waco initiative tracks indicators around our three impact areas – education, health and financial security.  To find out more about how our community is doing, read our 2015 Greater Waco Community Indicators Scorecard and attend our 2016 Summit Event in September where you will get a copy of our Community Baseline Report.  I look forward to seeing all of you and would love to talk data with you!


CCRD Ð Graduate students Ð Jeffrey Tamburello and Brittany Fitz Ð portrait Ð 03/04/2016Brittany Fitz-Chapman works at Prosper Waco as the Director of Data and Research. She is a graduate of Baylor University.  She holds two master’s degrees and is pursuing her PhD in Sociology at Baylor. She has engaged in community research in Waco and has published professional articles about what makes communities strong. She enjoys exploring Waco with her husband and their two puppies!

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.

 

Learn How To Become A Brain Builder!

By Christina Helmick

Have you heard the saying “there is an app for that?” I have an app that automatically texts people when I am in a certain area, another app that keeps track of the steps I’ve taken, and an app that organizes my grocery list based upon food categories. What about an app that provides daily activities for adults to do with children to help prepare them for Kindergarten? Well, there is an app for that too!

vroom screen shotThe Prosper Waco Kindergarten Readiness work group, along with other Prosper Waco community partners like the Cameron Park Zoo and the Mayborn Museum, are promoting a free parenting tool called Vroom. Vroom, which you can download on any smartphone, tablet or computer, provides you with daily, age-appropriate brain building activities to do with children ages 0 to 5. Each activity comes with science-based background information that allows adults to understand how that specific activity is building the brain development of the child.  To download the app, go to the App Store and search for “Vroom” or “Daily Vroom.”

If there is someone you know that would enjoy practicing brain building with their infant, toddler or preschooler and doesn’t have access to the Internet, give us a call at 254-741-0081 to receive physical copies of the Vroom activities.

Depending upon if you are an early childhood care provider, a community organization or a community member who wants to raise awareness about Kindergarten Readiness, there are different ways you can promote Vroom.

family_flyerFor example, if you are an early childhood care provider or an organization that directly deals with children ages 0 to 5 and their families, you can distribute information to your families about Vroom and hang posters around your facility! If you are a community organization like the City of Waco, you can hang posters around your workplace and include a Vroom flyer in your welcome packets to new hires. If you want to help promote Vroom on an individual level, bring Vroom flyers with you to meetings you attend and direct people to the Vroom tab on the Prosper Waco website so they can learn more about the app! To learn more ways to help promote Vroom within our community and the organizations working together to promote the app, visit our website.

Everyone in our community can use #Vroom254 to encourage brain building activities!

This free parenting tool is one element to addressing the Prosper Waco Kindergarten Readiness goal of increasing the percentage of Kindergarten ready students by 50 percent by 2020.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to Christina Helmick [254-741-0081] with questions about Vroom or how you can help promote the free parenting tool!


Christina HelmickChristina Helmick is the director of communication at Prosper Waco. She is a recent graduate of Baylor University with a BA in Journalism, Public Relations & New Media. Originally she is from Washington, D.C., but has stayed in Waco post-graduation.  She is an active mentor at J.H. Hines Elementary School, enjoys spending time with her family and watching Baylor football. Sic ’em Bears!

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.

For more about Vroom see this recent Prosper Waco talk show that focuses on the app and brain building…

 

 

 

I Want To Be Involved In Prosper Waco, But How?

By Christina Helmick

Recently, we’ve been getting asked how people can become involved in the Prosper Waco initiative if they can’t attend meetings or meetings aren’t their thing. That’s a good question. We tend to focus on the many meetings that occur within the Prosper Waco initiative, sometimes we don’t communicate clearly enough that there are a plethora of ways to become involved—from subscribing to our newsletter to volunteering your time to help prepare community members to become “job ready.”

Below are five specific opportunities for you to choose to become engaged in the Prosper Waco initiative. These of course are not all of the ways, but just a few to get started.

engageEngage the community: Community engagement is a two-way conversation! If you are a part of an organization in town, connect with the Prosper Waco Community Engagement Council to learn how the Prosper Waco initiative aligns with your organization. If you are a community member and you want to join the conversation about the Prosper Waco initiative, host or attend a house meeting with the Community Engagement Council. A house meeting doesn’t have to be at your house—it can be anywhere!

mentorBecome a mentor: The Mentor Coalition is comprised of various organizations in our community who provide mentoring to Waco youth. There are many different ways to mentor in our community.  Check out the list!  You may find the perfect match for your availability, your interests and the age person you would like to mentor.  LEAD, Communities in Schools and Big Brothers Big Sisters are just a few of the organizations in the coalition.

job readySupport job readiness programs: In our community, we have many organizations working hard to help Waco residents acquire the skills necessary to get and keep a job. Examples of these organizations include HOT Goodwill Industries, Christian Men’s Job Corps, Christian Women’s Job Corp and the newly created Esther’s Closet.

newsletterSubscribe to our newsletter: Subscribing to the Prosper Waco newsletter will ensure you are kept abreast of the collaborative efforts that are ongoing in our community. The newsletters arrive on the first Monday of every month. Also, follow us on our Facebook and Twitter pages to receive daily updates on the initiative!

meetingOf course if you DO want to Attend a meeting  you are certainly invited! At either the Steering Committee level or the Working Group level, you can join the ongoing collaborative conversations about strategies and projects that will help address the goals of the initiative. Check the “Events” tab on our website for meeting times, dates and locations.

As I mentioned before, these are just a few ways to get involved in the Prosper Waco initiative. If you have any interest in these opportunities, or want to learn more about them, send me an email and I’d be happy to connect you.

Getting involved with one or more of the aforementioned ways will directly contribute to moving the initiative forward. Our community is working hard to collectively improve the education, health and financial security of each person in our community. There isn’t a silver bullet to alleviating poverty in our community, but with your help, positive change not only can, but will, happen in our community.


Christina HelmickChristina Helmick is the director of communication at Prosper Waco. She is a recent graduate of Baylor University with a BA in Journalism, Public Relations & New Media. Originally she is from Washington, D.C., but has stayed in Waco post-graduation.  She is an active mentor at J.H. Hines Elementary School, enjoys spending time with her family and watching Baylor football. Sic ’em Bears!

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.

The Prosper Waco Community Engagement Council Is Growing!

By Christina Helmick

Earlier this month, the Prosper Waco added two new South Waco members to the Community Engagement Council. 1SG (retired) Leonard Montelongo Jr. and Sarah Guajardo, both born and raised in Waco, are grassroots community members who believe that by engaging the community, the Prosper Waco initiative will move forward with the community’s voice guiding the work.

montelongo1SG (Ret.) Leonard Montelongo Jr. attended all Waco ISD schools growing up and is a graduate of University High School. He served in the United States Army just shy of 23 years and is currently the Senior Army Instructor for JROTC at University High School. He is a member of the American GI Forum and the American Legion of McLennan County. He earned his bachelor’s degree from National Louis University from McLean, Virginia.

guajardoSarah Guajardo is a lifelong resident of South Waco and graduated from University High School. She currently works as an administrative assistant at the Mercedes Benz of Waco. She received her certificates in secretarial training and medical secretary from McLennan Community College. Sarah currently serves as a member and former secretary of La Benemerita Sociedad Mutualista Mexicana De Jornaleros (Mutualista) and as a member of Mighty Wind Worship Center. While living in South Waco, she has served as president of Southern Little League and as a volunteer for the Heart of Texas Young Marines. Sarah is a proud mother of four and grandmother of two.

Both Leonard and Sarah, and the rest of Community Engagement Council, are actively engaging the community through house meetings and various community events. For example, Leonard and Sarah attended University High School’s Bootcamp event to connect with parents and talk with them about Prosper Waco’s Get Help Locally resource guide. The council also participated in the Central Texas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Family Expo event held on Feb. 13. The Family Expo, which had more than 1,500 attendees, gave the Community Engagement Council the opportunity to meet, connect and interact with community members from all over the Waco area. The council is actively planning house meetings, which will allow residents of Waco to join small, intimate conversations to talk about the issues they face in their own community and about how as a community we can work to address the goals of the Prosper Waco initiative.

Needless to say, the Prosper Waco Community Engagement Council is working hard to make sure the community’s voice is guiding the work of the Prosper Waco initiative. If you’re looking for a way to have your voice heard or to get involved in the Prosper Waco initiative, contacting the Community Engagement Council is the way to go! Email [email protected] and someone from the council will email you back as soon as they can. You can also call 254-741-0081 and the Prosper Waco team will connect you to the Community Engagement Council member for the area of Waco you live in.

I’ll end with some thoughts from Ruth Graham, one of Prosper Waco’s East Waco Community Engagement Council members. Her thoughts below reflect on engaging the community in general, and how each of us can keep in mind how to best connect with those we are trying to serve.

“Change is possible. I’ve seen it firsthand. Results are achievable with the right ingredients. Who are we to expect them to change without changing our own mindsets? What are we exhibiting in our speed and body language to this group we’re offering to help? How do we listen to and engage those whom we do not know or possibly fear? Let us start with genuine sincerity. Let us add a heap of acceptance. Let us fill it with diversity. Let us roll in the lovely accents. Let us remix the color styles. Let the ingredients in us inspire the change for the results we desire to achieve.”


We’re social! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get the latest and greatest updates on the Prosper Waco initiative, the hard work our community partners are doing for Waco and the great work of the Prosper Waco Community Engagement Council!


Christina HelmickChristina Helmick is the director of communication at Prosper Waco. She is a recent graduate of Baylor University with a BA in Journalism, Public Relations & New Media. Originally she is from Washington, D.C., but has stayed in Waco post-graduation.  She is an active mentor at J.H. Hines Elementary School, enjoys spending time with her family and watching Baylor football. Sic ’em Bears!

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: Moving Forward In 2016

by Christina Helmick

The start of a new year means starting new things, right? Prosper Waco is starting the new year by working on collaborative and partner-led projects, supporting and facilitating collaborative grant applications, and engaging the community each step of the way. The projects the Prosper Waco backbone and community partners are working on address the goals of the initiative’s common agenda.

What are the specific projects?

WFENThere are numerous collaborative projects the Prosper Waco backbone and community partners are currently working on, such as the Waco Foundational Employment Network, Community Health Worker program and Project Link. Skillpoint Alliance and Family Health Center Advanced Care Management are two partner-led projects we are currently working on.

As the backbone organization, we are currently supporting and facilitating two collaborative grant applications, which are the System of Care grant and the HOPES grant. Supporting the application process of these grants is an effort to capture resources for our entire Waco community.

Each project advances the common agenda of the Prosper Waco initiative and has been reviewed and discussed by Prosper Waco working groups and steering committees.

How can I learn more about the projects?

What to expectWe’ve created a “What To Expect In 2016” report for you to download to learn more about the projects the Prosper Waco backbone organization and community partners are currently working on. As an extra bonus, we’ve included in the report a master calendar of events for 2016 and Prosper Waco’s strategic plan for community engagement.

Download the report and contact us with your feedback, questions or comments. You can contact us by calling 254-741-0081 or sending an email to [email protected].

How can I become involved in the Prosper Waco initiative in 2016?

There are multiple ways you can become involved in the Prosper Waco initiative. Here is a list of a few ways you can become involved:

Volunteer: There are various opportunities for you to volunteer in our community, from one-time events to weekly opportunities. Volunteer opportunities range from mentoring youth in Waco to facilitating financial literacy education classes with job training programs. Check out the Get Involved tab on our website to learn more.

Connect: The Prosper Waco Community Engagement Council wants to connect with YOU! If you are interested in having your voice heard, helping guide the work of the initiative, and want to know who you can reach out to in your neighborhood for information regarding the initiative, email [email protected] and a community engagement council member from your neighborhood will contact you.

Attend: Our working group and steering committees are open to all community members. Visit the events tab on our website to learn about the meeting times, dates and locations. Don’t worry if you can’t make the meetings-we take notes at every meeting and would be happy to send them your way!

Subscribe: Subscribe to our monthly newsletter and stay abreast of the Prosper Waco initiative.

We know there isn’t a silver bullet to addressing the poverty issues in our community, but with the community voice guiding the work and the hard work of our community partners, collectively we can make Waco the best community it can be.

Contact us! Call us at 254-741-0081 or send an email to [email protected].


Christina HelmickChristina Helmick is the director of communication at Prosper Waco. She is a recent graduate of Baylor University with a BA in Journalism, Public Relations & New Media. Originally she is from Washington, D.C., but has stayed in Waco post-graduation.  She is an active mentor at J.H. Hines Elementary School, enjoys spending time with her family and watching Baylor football. Sic ’em Bears!

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.

 

 

Be part of the Prosper Waco conversation in your neighborhood

By Matthew Polk

Last Tuesday, we had the opportunity to have dinner and conversation with community members in East Waco about how they would achieve the Prosper Waco goals in their community. The Prosper Waco community engagement council and the Northeast Riverside Neighborhood Association partnered to bring the Prosper Waco dialogue to East Waco. Some two dozen local residents came out to chew on ideas developed by the Prosper Waco steering committees for achieving the our community’s goals to improve the education, health, and financial security of Wacoans.

There is much to say about our community, both its strengths and challenges. To focus the conversation, members of the Prosper Waco community engagement council guided the conversation with questions focused on three specific initiative efforts:

  • Preparing all children to be successful in Kindergarten by engaging parents in their child’s early education and connecting them to resources like high-quality childcare
  • Developing a community health worker program to train community members on health issues and empower them to work with their family, friends, and neighbors to better access the healthcare available in our community
  • Making new job training opportunities available, including full-time training courses that last just a few weeks and programs specifically designed for youth (16-24 year olds)

There is no “one size fits all” community program—different neighborhoods, even different families, face different challenges and need different things. Whether the programs listed above will work and how they can work best are things that each neighborhood has to decide for itself.

This Wednesday night (December 9) , the community conversation will move to South Waco (Maranatha Church at 2200 Ross Ave.) at 6:00pm. If you live in South Waco, please be part of this event! You do not need to reserve a spot, just come have dinner and be part of the discussion. And if you live in North Waco, join us on Thursday night (December 10) at 6:00pm at Greater New Light Missionary Baptist Church (925 N. 18th St.). At both events, we’ll be focusing on the three topics listed above, but there will be plenty of opportunity to provide thoughts and ideas on other issues that the Prosper Waco initiative is working on.

We know that Wacoans (and especially Act Locally Waco readers!) care about Waco. Even if you can’t attend community meetings, we want to make it as easy as possible for you to stay informed on the Prosper Waco initiative and be part of the conversation about how our community is doing on the most important issues: education, health, and financial security for all members of our community. If you have ideas about what it takes to improve education, health, and financial security in your community, don’t hesitate to reach out. In fact, you can use our new community engagement email address: [email protected]!

Send an email to us at this address and you’ll get a reply either from a Prosper Waco staffer or a member of the Prosper Waco community engagement council—a community member who lives in your neck of the woods. Either way, every comment and idea is important and helps guide where this community initiative goes!


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.