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By Kara Blomquist
Go beyond the Baylor Bubble — that was the idea behind the Community Coffee House.
A panel of three community leaders gave a short presentation and then answered questions from both a moderator and students Tuesday in the Den of the Bill Daniel Student Center.
Ennis senior Briana Treadaway, student government’s external vice president, said she wanted students to know more about their community. Treadaway led the organization for the event.
“I just wanted to educate students on the city they live in,” Treadaway said.
About 30 students attended. Free coffee and dessert were available to those who came.
Ashley Allison, executive director of the Waco Foundation; Virginia DuPuy, executive director of the Greater Waco Community Education Alliance and president and CEO of DuPuy Oxygen; and Mayor Malcolm Duncan Jr. were the panelists. They spoke on the topics of poverty, education and the development of downtown. Dr. Gaynor Yancey, a professor in Baylor’s School of Social Work, was the moderator.
Duncan discussed the highlights of Imagine Waco, a plan for the development of downtown Waco.
Duncan said the plan is to attract people from both sides of the Brazos River to downtown Waco by creating parks with open land along the banks of the river.
Duncan said the plan aims to revitalize downtown.
“There’s all kinds of ingredients needed to make a vibrant downtown, and that’s what this plan calls for,” he said.
The Greater Waco Community Education Alliance is trying to make another area of Waco vibrant by looking at the education community, DuPuy said.
The Greater Waco Community Education Alliance is a collaboration of community groups, such as foundations, bankers, chambers and higher education. The alliance aims to improve education in Waco, she said.
DuPuy said before the alliance was created, there were areas in the community where education excelled, but the areas of excellence were not connected to each other.
“We lived in such silos, that’s the reason I thought we needed to establish an alliance,” she said.
The community has a part to play in Waco education, DuPuy said.
“Send students of all ages to school ready to learn—that is the community’s role,” she said.
The alliance is a also part of a collaboration known as Prosper Waco, Allison said.
Prosper Waco is a collaboration of community entities, including Waco ISD, various churches, some nonprofits and higher education organizations, including Baylor. The Waco Foundation partners with this initiative. Allison spoke about Prosper Waco’s strategic plan to alleviate poverty.
She outlined the administrative steps necessary for Prosper Waco’s success, such as creating a leadership board, developing a budget and naming the enterprise. The collaboration has already accomplished some of these steps, such as naming the effort Prosper Waco.
“A lot of this work is very new and recent, but we’re doing it,” she said.
Allison said Prosper Waco can’t do it alone.
“It’s not going to be this initiative that ends poverty,” she said. “It’s going to be this initiative that helps end poverty.”
Allison said she also wants to raise awareness of community foundations. These nonprofits can be found across America. The Waco Foundation is the foundation for McLennan County. The main goal of the foundation is to promote solutions to community challenges, according to the foundation’s 2011-2012 annual report.
“A community resource is a general resource for anybody no matter where you live,” Allison said.
She said students should engage in the Waco community.
“This is your community for however long you’re here,” she said. “Act as if you’re not going to leave.”