Prosper Waco increasing community contribution


New employees (l-r): Deneece Ferrales, Natalie Szot, and Maria Arevalo

Prosper Waco’s work in the community is expanding in health and education, and three new staff members will help serve the community.


Health


Prosper Waco, with funding from Episcopal Health Foundation, recently gave birth to Waco Connect. This is an effort to address social determinants of health among some of Waco’s vulnerable populations. Studies have shown that addressing social factors pays dividends for a person’s health and relieves pressure on a community’s medical infrastructure.


This past summer, Prosper Waco’s senior specialist for health initiatives, Tiffiney Grey, left Waco to return to her hometown. At the same time, PW’s health initiatives were expanding. Rather than have a senior level position, CEO Suzii Paynter March decided to move forward with three initiative directors -- Telawna Kirbie, behavioral health; Beth Olson, adolescent health; and Deneece Ferrales, other health efforts.


Telawna and Beth had joined the PW staff earlier this year and had been announced. Deneece came onboard Aug. 2. She holds a doctorate in social work from the University of Texas in Austin and previously served as assistant professor with Tarleton State University in Waco.


The Waco Connect project, which PW is incubating for the community, needed a social resource coordinator. Natalie Szot joined the staff in this role Sept. 15. She is a licensed master social worker, with a master’s degree from Baylor’s Garland School of Social Work. PW has one other social resource coordinator, DeAngela Bynum, who works with the Waco Police Department.


Education


Prosper Waco has begun an official partnership with Educate Texas and the Texas Impact Network. They received a grant from the Gates Foundation to build capacity and create better connections between secondary education and post-secondary opportunities in McLennan County.


Maria Arevalo joined the Prosper Waco staff Oct. 1 as director of post-secondary initiatives. Her experience in college access, equity, and connections across the community will make her a major asset to the PW education and workforce team. Prior to joining the PW staff, Maria was MAC & scholarship coordinator for Waco Foundation. She holds a master’s degree in education from Angelo State University.