From the Desk of Mallory Herridge, Waco Program Director:
Every year the Prosper Waco Summit convenes roughly 400 Waco citizens, nonprofit leaders, school district leaders, employers and industry leaders to celebrate the collective impact initiative’s work each year and remind the community that Prosper Waco is not a single organization–it is an initiative of partner organizations from across the community coming together to address community needs. This years’ Summit (held on October 12th) included a panel of grassroots, community leaders sharing about the needs and perspectives of their particular neighborhoods and areas of Waco. Because the previous Summits had proven to be not only a fruitful time for networking with community partners, city leaders, community members and employers, it was important to me as the Waco Skillpoint Alliance Program Director for our Austin staff and a few past graduates to join in the celebration, hear about the work achieved and get a sense for how Skillpoint has played an important role in the Prosper Waco initiative.
Prosper Waco is a collective impact initiative focused on addressing issues facing the Greater Waco Community in the areas of Education, Health, and Financial Security. The 3-yr initiative grew from three long-standing collaborative networks–the Greater Waco Community Education Alliance, the Community Health Improvement Plan and the Poverty Solutions Steering Committee, with the overall vision and mission to build an environment in which all members of our Waco community are able to measurably improve their education, health and financial security and that every member of our community can access opportunities to maximize his or her potential.
Skillpoint’s presence in Waco coincides with the formation and implementation of Prosper Waco. Former Mayor, Malcolm Duncan reached out to Skillpoint Alliance during the initial formation of Prosper Waco. He saw the work of Skillpoint in Austin and appealed to the Executive Director to consider piloting Gateway courses in Waco in an attempt to provide another option for residents seeking to start a career in Waco and increase their financial security, therefore, addressing one of the three focus areas of the Prosper Waco initiative. After piloting two CNA Gateway classes in 2015, the Skillpoint Austin office recognized the need to form a Waco office for this program to be successful.
By Fall of 2016, I was hired as the first Waco Program Director and started the Waco Skillpoint Alliance office. Prosper Waco has championed the formation of this office by connecting us to the Waco Employment Resource Networking group and Financial Security Steering committee. Through commitment and work with these groups, we have been able to network, strategize and implement ways for Skillpoint programming to be most effective in Waco.
We often think of key decision-makers and influencers as CEO or city officials, not us. I love Skillpoint’s Gateway program not only because it provides a Gateway to a career (gaining trade skills at a rapid-pace, at little to no cost to the participant) but also because it can often be a Gateway to a new way of thinking. Through each of the 5 Gateway classes we have offered in Waco since I’ve been on staff, I have seen students graduate with new-found confidence and belief that they have something to contribute to their community. My hope is that as we continue to expand in Waco and work towards the larger Education and Financial Security goals through the Prosper Waco initiative, we will also continue producing future community leaders in Waco.