The other day I resumed my volunteer work at Waco High School, helping the school’s iconic mock trial program run by beloved career educator Rick Lowe. Back in the summer of 2016, upon leaving Baylor University, I sat down with then-Superintendent Bonny Cain and volunteered to pitch in and try to help the district. She placed me at Waco High School.
That was then. This particular morning, after a mock trial class in which the team was preparing hard for the upcoming regional competition at Baylor Law School, I was standing next to the mighty Lion statue and bidding a temporary farewell to the wonderful administrators. The hallways were vibrant passageways with students and teachers moving to their next class. That’s when I learned from Dean Lisa Saxenian (my boss at Waco High) that on this single day seven new students had enrolled at the school.
I was taken aback. It was Thursday in mid-January. It turned out all seven were new to our community, illustrating again the dynamism of our city’s growth.
The trend continues. Not only is the Waco region growing, so are its schools. My point: Some of this growth comes from parents taking a second look at what public education in Waco ISD has to offer. Last fall, students transferred into Waco High not only from other communities around Texas and the nation but from some of the very fine private schools in our fair city. I chatted with one such parent just before Christmas break. The mom was bringing in cookies for her sophomore daughter’s class party. I was stunned by what this caring parent had to say about certain gaps in an otherwise strong curriculum: “My daughter was falling behind” at a very fine private school here in our community.
How could that possibly be, I wondered. I started asking questions. The happy parent made the point clearly and emphatically: Waco High offers AP and college credit courses, with top-flight faculty members, that simply cannot be matched at many schools, even some private institutions.
Consider the ACCELERATE program, which offers these students the chance to complete both high school diploma requirements and college-level associate’s degree requirements through McLennan Community College at the very same time. Students can actually graduate from high school with a high school diploma and a college degree, shaving off two years of college time and the significant expense so often in the national spotlight these days.
Parents and grandparents rightly want the very best educational opportunities for their children. Increasingly, as I’ve seen, loved ones are taking a close look at Waco ISD with its dynamic new superintendent, Dr. A. Marcus Nelson. When they pause and do due diligence, those parents and other caregivers see high-value opportunities — in particular, the almost bewildering range of choices that students enjoy both academically and in extracurricular activities.
Over the past 18 months, I’ve come to know many remarkable teachers and administrators at Waco High, led by the school’s outstanding principal, Ed Love, a Waco ISD veteran of more than three decades. These educators are not only superb in the classroom, they also care deeply about the students. They want them to succeed.
As I took my leave, in came an alumnus from the Waco High class of 2017, Luis, now a student at our magnificent McLennan Community College. Luis is having a spectacular experience at MCC and expressed the sentiments of a grateful Lion Pride grad superbly prepared to succeed at the college level. As Luis paid respects to Mr. Lowe, I was reminded of what quarterback Robert Griffin said of my beloved Baylor: “At BU, you can be you.” So too at Waco High, whose student population gives fresh and powerful meaning to true and deep diversity. One mock-trial student the other morning proudly wore a T-shirt that made the point: “Everybody’s Somebody at Waco High.”
Here’s to ever-improving educational opportunities in our blessing-filled community — for all our schools, including my adopted home, Waco High, where Lion Pride Runs Deep.