The Work

The Prosper Waco backbone organization and community partners are currently working on collaborative and partner-led projects, along with supporting and facilitating collaborative grant applications to capture resources for our Waco community.

The hard work of initiative partners has led to $6.2 million funding from federal, state and private funding from outside of the Waco community. Here is a breakdown of the 6 million dollars of external funding for initiative efforts:

  • Episcopal Health Foundation, Community Engagement: $70,000
  • TG Philanthropy “Paving the Way” Grant, supports Project Link and MCC’s degree pathways: $149,700
  • HOPES Grant, awarded to the Family Abuse Center: $1,800,000
  • System of Care Grant, awarded to Heart of Texas MHMR: $3,328,802
  • Skillpoint Alliance, Texas Workforce Commission Workforce Training Funds: $250,000
  • Episcopal Health Foundation, awarded to Waco Foundation on behalf of Waco-McLennnan Public Health District and Family Health Center for the McLennan County Community Health Worker Initiative: $586,397

  • To read the updates from the various initiatives and projects that are ongoing, visit our Notes & Updates page.

    Below are descriptions of what we are currently working on:

    Current Projects

    School Readiness Initiative- Vroom: A working group composed of local early childhood programs and childcare providers meets monthly to review and assess school readiness data from local school districts (currently Waco ISD and Midway ISD) and determine how to:

    • Align work of local programs around criteria included in the school readiness assessment used by the local school districts
    • Increase access to high-quality early childhood services in Waco
    • Engage parents and community organizations with tools for improving the school readiness of local children

    • Since May 2016, numerous local schools, childcares, early childhood organizations and other local organizations have partnered to raise awareness about a free parenting tool called Vroom. Vroom provides daily, age-appropriate brain building activities for parents, guardians and caregivers to do with children ages 0-5. This parenting tool, developed by national leaders in early childhood development, neuroscience and parenting (with support from the Bezos Family Foundation), empowers adults to shape the foundation of learning for preschool-age children. Each activity aims to use items found in every household and each activity has a “brainy background” that helps parents understand how that specific activity is building their child’s brain. The Prosper Waco backbone is partnering with the Bezos Family Foundation to collect data on app usage, duration of sessions and number of downloads for the Waco-McLennan County area. The work of this working group addresses the goal of increasing the number of local students who enter Kindergarten ready to learn.

      Waco Foundational Employment Network (WFEN): This network of social service agencies, staffing agencies and local employers collaborate to place people in full-time jobs. WFEN bridges the gap between organizations helping people find jobs and the staffing agencies and employers looking to hire. This collaboration allows job seekers to find and obtain jobs more quickly and have the support they need to maintain employment, while also providing employers a central point of contact to local social service agencies. WFEN tracks the number of job placements and employment turnover among network members to increase the rate at which local employers hire and retain employees. This project helps address the Employment and Income goals of the initiative.

      Mentor Coalition: Research indicates that quality mentoring relationships have a positive impact on the academic and personal success of children and youth. The Prosper Waco backbone facilitates a collaboration of many organizations in the Waco community that focus on providing mentoring opportunities to children and adults. The coalition collaboratively recruits community members to serve as mentors and provide high-quality training for mentors. The Mentor Coalition provides opportunities for Waco community members, organizations and civic groups to volunteer and help support students on their path to college completion. The efforts of this coalition addresses the College & Career Success goal of the initiative.

      Work Readiness Certification: McLennan Community College and the Center for Occupational Research and Development (CORD) are collaborating to create a certificate curriculum to help jobseekers in our community to be adequately prepared to gain employment and be successful on the job. With the support for the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, the content of the curriculum was developed through local employer feedback and will teach jobseekers the skills employers expect employees to have. It will be offered at MCC and will be taught in job training programs across the community. This local work readiness certificate will help contribute to the Employment and Income goals of the initiative.

      Okay to Say : Initiated by the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, this community-wide campaign raises awareness about mental health and aims to erase the taboo of talking about mental health issues. A number of local organizations, employers and healthcare clinics are working together to implement the Okay to Say campaign in the Waco community. On the bilingual materials placed in the entities around Waco, there is a 24/7 crisis text line people can use if they are having a mental health crisis to get an immediate response from a crisis counselor. This Mental Health campaign will contribute to decreasing the use of hospital ER visits for mental health treatment.

      Well-Woman Campaign: The Prosper Waco Women’s Health Work Group is working with local healthcare providers and community organizations to develop a community-wide awareness campaign that will prompt women in our community to receive their annual well-woman exam. The awareness campaign will focus on the importance of women receiving preventative care to remain healthy and increase their chances of a health pregnancy. The campaign will educate women on their options for healthcare, regardless of insurance. With the partnership of community partners like Providence Healthcare Network, Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest Medical Center, Family Health Center and members of the women’s health work group, this coordinated campaign will seek to increase the percentage of women receiving preventative care.

      CampusTown Waco Initiative: Through collaboration between Baylor University, McLennan Community College, Texas State Technical College, the City of Waco and the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, this initiative connects students to the Waco community through internships, volunteer opportunities and recreational activities. The initiative tracks the number of local college graduates who accept employment in McLennan County. The objective of the initiative is to retain local talent produced by the three local education institutions, which will lead to economic development in McLennan County. Increase retention of our educated population will contribute to the initiative’s goal of increasing the median income of full-time workers and households in Waco. To learn more information about this initiative, contact Evan Hebert , Program Coordinator for CampusTown Waco.

      High School Summer Internships: In the summer of 2016, Waco ISD piloted a high school internship program with Waco High School students. These internships allowed students from all backgrounds the opportunity to gain real work experience and become more involved in the Waco community. Internships also offer the business community the opportunity to gain insights on the workforce that is graduating from local education institutions are the high school level. With such success of the piloted program, Waco ISD is expanding the summer internship program to all Waco ISD high school students with plans to have 100 student interns. If you are an employer and would like to offer internships for high school students, please contact Christina Helmick. This internship program will contribute to the Employment & Income goals of the initiative.

      Behavioral Health Leadership Team (BHLT): In collaboration with the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, the Prosper Waco backbone provides support for a local Behavioral Health Leadership Team, which includes leaders of local organizations committed to working together to address mental health and substance abuse issues in our community. City, County, healthcare and law enforcement leaders partner through the BHLT to identify effective ways to better serve those in our community with behavioral health needs while keeping all community members safe. A recent outcome of this collaborative effort is the creation of a mental health jail diversion program in the office of the district attorney. BHLT will contribute to addressing the health goals of the initiative.

      Mayborn Museum Complex Science Night: Baylor University’s Mayborn Museum Complex is working to engage the community in ways that support the education goals of the Prosper Waco initiative. For example, the Mayborn is partnering with Waco ISD elementary school campuses to provide evening access for students and their families to science activities that will increase student achievement and parent engagement in the learning process. Partnerships like this are ways for the community to help more students achieve the education goals of the initiative.

      Click here to read more about the first Science Night in the Waco community!

      Partner-led Projects

      Project Link: Project Link, is a multi-year, $1 million grant funded by the Rapoport Foundation in Waco aims to bridge the gap between high school graduation and post-secondary enrollment/completion by placing success coaches at University High School and Waco High School (Waco ISD), La Vega High School (La Vega ISD), McLennan Community College and Texas State Technical College. These success coaches work with cohorts of students entering the ninth grade until they graduate from MCC or TSTC by providing support in areas such as tutoring, financial aid, finding the right college, time management and much more. The collaborative team behind Project Link is working to develop a model of support for college completion that can be made available to all students in McLennan County. The success of this program will directly influence the post-secondary goal in education: double the percentage of economically-disadvantaged students who complete a workforce certificate or college degree. For more information about Project Link, please contact Natalie James, Project Link coordinator.

      Community Health Worker Program & Integrated Health Managers: Community Health Worker (CHW) Program & Integrated Health Managers: The Waco-McLennan County Public Health District is partnering with the Family Health Center, Providence Healthcare Network and Baylor Scott & White Medical Center- Hillcrest, to pilot an evidence-based CHW program in high-need zip codes in Waco. CHWs are community members who undergo 160-hour state-approved training to understand health issues, the healthcare system and strategies for leading a healthy lifestyle. CHWs work was the grassroots level to connect their friends, family and neighbors to local health resources and reinforce ways to lead a healthier lifestyle.

      Along with partnering on the CHW program, Family Health Center is training social workers to work alongside doctors and nurses to support patients in its clinics. These Integrated Health Managers will provide a variety of support to patients that busy doctors and nurses may not have the time to. The managers can talk to patients about any mental or behavioral health concerns, help them understand their doctor’s instructions and how to fill their prescriptions, and other health related issues. This will provide patients a more personal level of attention so they can receive the best healthcare possible.

      Both the CHW and Integrated Health Care Manager programs are supported by an Episcopal Health Foundation grant of $586,735 divided over three years. Other financial support and in-kind donation is provided by the City of Waco, Family Health Center, Providence Healthcare Network and Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest Medical Center.

      The CHW and Integrated Health Managers programs will contribute to all health goals within the Prosper Waco initiative.

      Skillpoint Alliance: Skillpoint Alliance is a nonprofit organization that offers free, rapid workforce development training courses that prepare individuals to earn an industry-recognized certificate in four to nine weeks in fields such as Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA), HVAC, plumbing, electrical and machine operation. The training programs are full-time and offer students hands-on experiential learning and soft skills education that prepares individuals to be successful on the job. Skillpoint focuses on recruiting individuals for training programs that often have barriers to employment, including those who have not completed a high school education. This nonprofit’s efforts directly relate to increasing employment of 16 to 24 year olds and increasing the income of those residents living below 50 percent of the federal poverty level. For more information about the classes currently being offered, please contact Mallory Herridge, Waco Program Director.

      HOPES Coalition: Waco’s Family Abuse Center is the lead agency for a state-funded grant to reduce child abuse and neglect by increasing community supports to parents of young children. The grant—Healthy Outcomes through Prevention and Early Support (HOPES)—provides resources over multiple years to increase the capacity of our community to provide parenting education. Through the grant, Waco ISD has added two additional staff to work directly with parents through its Parents as Teachers program. Family Abuse Center will also offer Parents as Teachers training and support. Parents as Teachers is an evidence-based home visiting model that not only reduces child abuse but increases children’s school readiness. Another aspect of the HOPES grant is the creation of a coalition of agencies serving parents and children who will meet regularly to identify strategies for preventing child abuse before it occurs by educating families and providing support services to those children and families that are at risk. This coalition will help address the School Readiness goal of the initiative.

      System of Care: Led by MHMR, a collaborative team that includes school districts, CPS, and juvenile justice has met throughout 2016 to identify ways to create a “system of care”–a better aligned system of services– for children’s mental health services in McLennan County. As the lead agency for this collaboration, MHMR has applied for a multi-million dollar federal grant through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. This grant will provide resources to jumpstart the implementation of strategies developed by the system of care leadership team, including providing access to mental health professionals in the school setting so that students can receive the care they need on their campus. By better connecting students to the care they need, our community will see improved behavioral and educational outcomes for children. This collaborative effort will contribute to the Mental Health goals of the initiative.

      Reach Out & Read : This program, which trains doctors and nurses to help parents understand the importance of reading with their children and provides bilingual books to parents when they bring their child to the doctor for a well-child appointment, began in the Waco community in the fall of 2016. Funded by the Junior League of Waco, two Family Health Center clinics will initially house the program with plans to expand to other clinics in the future. Each book given to family members will have a Vroom sticker adhered to the inside, to give parents more tools to help prepare their child to be school ready. Reach Out and Read is an evidence-based program proven to increase the frequency with which parents read to their children, which in turn increases children’s school readiness. This program will help address the School Readiness goal of the initiative.

      Reintegration Roundtable : This collaborative program, housed at MHMR, provides individualized support to people who have recently been released from prison. The program staff work with the individuals reentering society to make sure they get connected to the resources they need, such as housing, healthcare and employment. Staffing for the roundtable was made possible by joint funding from the City of Waco, McLennan County and MHMR. This program will address the income goals of the initiative.

      Texas Success Initiative (TSI) Sharing: The TSI assessment is a measure of college readiness that is used to place students entering Texas public colleges in developmental (remedial) courses. Students who show proficiency on the TSI (if they don’t take the SAT or ACT) are more likely to complete a college certificate or degree. Prosper Waco initiative partners are working to share data on local student performance on the TSI and increase the opportunities for local high school students to prepare for, take, and pass the TSI before graduation so that they are college ready and more likely to earn a workforce certificate or college degree–one of the Prosper Waco initiative goals. The Project Link Oversight Committee is strategizing to include TSI preparation as an element of the Project Link program.

      Waco-Mclennan County Library Literacy Kits: The Waco-Mclennan County Library is committed to providing Waco families resources to improve their children’s school readiness. Part of this effort includes literacy kits that parents can check out to help their child develop early reading skills. In celebration of the completed renovation of the East Waco Library, the Waco Rotary Club has provided a grant of more than $3,500 to support the creation of these literacy kits–a partnership that supports the Prosper Waco School Readiness goal.