By Ariadne Aberin
The Waco Collegiate Forum, an organization that discusses important issues in Waco such as education and community service, offers Baylor students an opportunity to be involved in the community.
“The goal of the program is to foster civic engagement and help students think more about being citizens of the community that they’re living in,” said Alexis Weaver, who heads the forum and is director of community affairs for the Community Development Department of the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce.
Lauren Houser, a Cortez, Colo. junior Baylor Business Fellow who is actively involved in the Waco Collegiate Forum, sees the forum as an important bridge between Baylor and Waco.
“What we’re trying to do is bring unity between students and the Waco community,” Houser said. Houser said another goal is to increase commerce in Waco, since most students leave Waco for Dallas or Austin to find entertainment.
The program primarily targets upperclassmen, but is open to students of all years and majors.
“We really want sophomores and juniors just so they can sort of become leaders and help guide where the forum goes from there and build it up,” Weaver said.
The program is also an opportunity for Baylor students to interact with students from McLennan Community College and Texas State Technical College.
“It’s nice to talk to people who come [from] different viewpoints because a lot of the MCC and TSTC students are older and going back to school to further themselves, so their view on education and business is completely different,” said John Sommers, a Tulsa, Okla., senior Baylor Business Fellow who is involved in the Waco Collegiate Forum.
Weaver agreed it was a great way for students to get past their apprehension of talking to students from other schools.
“These are all different students with different priorities, but there are still commonalities and things they can work on together,” Weaver said.
“The administrations from the three schools all work great together, but we really want it to be around the students too.”
Last fall, the forum and the chamber put together a college outreach and career expo event called Whacked Out that included students from TSTC, MCC and Baylor. Various local businesses set up booths and asked bands from Austin and Uproar Records to perform live for participants.
The Waco Collegiate Forum also does occasional service projects in Waco.
“The point is to not have a huge time commitment,” Weaver said. “We meet once a month and we do one service project per semester.” The forum has held a community service day where members removed graffiti and painted a building as well as participated in events like Steppin’ Out.
Meetings usually involve a guest speaker, which has included the mayor of Waco. Additionally, the forum plans to conduct a meeting that is more related to working professionally in Waco. The students can bring in their resumés and work one-on-one with a mentor while discussing professional development.
Weaver said many students stay in Waco for four years of college and then leave immediately, but often return to the city.
“So many students graduate from Baylor and move out of Waco to a bigger city,” Weaver said. “But then they get to their mid-20s and they’re married and want to start a family, and they realize that they don’t like the traffic, or the air pollution, or the cost of living in a big city, and that’s when Waco starts to sound better.”
She said one of the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce’s goals is to be a magnet for talent and Waco has one of the fastest growing populations of the 25-to 34 year-old demographic.
The Waco Collegiate Forum will put out applications in the spring and recruit in the fall. For more information, contact Alexis Weaver at firstname.lastname@example.org.