By Julia Vergara | Staff Writer
CampusTown Waco is an organization that connects college students to local jobs and internships –– completely free of charge –– with the goal of keeping them in Waco after graduation.
Initiative Coordinator for CampusTown Waco Evan Hebert said the organization is a partnership between each of the five colleges at Waco, the City of Waco, the Greater Waco Chamber and a local non-profit called Prosper Waco.
“Everyone who cares about keeping students in Waco when they graduate is in on this project,” Hebert said.
Director of Communications for Prosper Waco Christina Helmick said that while a majority of the Prosper Waco initiative efforts aim to reduce poverty, she believes poverty alleviation and economic development are two sides of the same coin.
“To date, through the efforts of CampusTown Waco, 40 students are working full-time jobs in the Waco community ––That is an estimated $1.6 million in annual wages retained in Waco,” Helmick said.
As initiative coordinator, Hebert said he spends a lot of his time hanging out with students from each of the five colleges and doing everything he can to help them find part-time jobs and internships while they are students. The end goal is to help them find a full-time job in Waco once they graduate.
“So I spend a good chunk of my time just drinking coffee with local students,” Hebert said.
Hebert said his services are completely free — start to finish. He meets with students, reviews their resumes and helps them work on it if they need help. For the resumes that are good to go, he sends them to the Greater Waco Chamber downtown, which then sends the resumes out to employers throughout the city every Wednesday.
“I heard about 500 employers see these resumes every week,” Hebert said. “So that’s sort of the biggest service we offer. Students who are looking for work —whether it be full-time, part-time or internship — I can get their resume in front of local employers.”
Hebert said he also spends a lot of time with local employers, telling them that there are many college students who want to stay in Waco — And if the company is looking to hire, he shares students’ resumes directly with the employer.
Hebert said CampusTown Waco started in May 2016 when recent graduate Kristyn Miller and a former mayor of Waco put their brains together together and thought about what it would look like to make life as easy as possible for students to be able to stay in Waco.
According to Hebert, the city was having a hard time attracting employers because there were no students staying and in turn, students weren’t staying because there were no jobs.
Hebert said Miller was trying to find a way to bridge that connection and help plug students into the jobs that do exist, while working on building Waco’s talent base so the city could attract some larger companies in the future.
Miller helped get CampusTown Waco funded and helped do the ground work for the organization before she was offered an opportunity somewhere else. Hebert said that is when he was called to take over as the coordinator part-time until he graduated in December 2016 — Then he became the coordinator full-time.
Hebert said that since CampusTown Waco started, there have been a lot more college graduates staying in the city.
“It may just be the time because Waco is sort of blowing up right now,” Hebert said. “But since, I mean, I got to school in 2012 and there was virtually no one staying in Waco and now it feels like there’s hundreds and hundreds of young professionals downtown.”
Hebert said it’s obvious that the city’s changing because at any new business in downtown Waco, there is a good chance that there are Baylor graduates and there is a good chance they are under 30.
“Waco is the best place to start your career because you can save up money pretty quickly and you can build a little bit of wealth,” Hebert said. “But best case scenario, you end up sticking around here and starting a business and really contributing to the growth in Waco.”
Hebert said he is probably the most flexible person students can meet when it comes to looking for a job. Although he does have an office in the Career and Professional Development Office, he said he spends most of his time out in the community at coffee shops with students. He is also easily reachable and can be contacted through his email or CampusTown Waco’s social media pages.
“I can walk you to class, I can buy you lunch in the SUB, I can buy you coffee and it’s a totally free service so worst case scenario, you get free coffee out of it. Best case scenario, you get a full-time job,” Hebert said.