LEGACY Fall 2019
A Baylor Student Publication
Murals Paint the
A nonprofit organization encourages
City of Waco
culture and creativity to thrive in Waco.
Story & Photos by Camille Rasor
ye-catching murals have come to be an iconic feature of life in Waco, most of them depicting both the good and bad aspects of the city’s history. Among the groups adding to the murals of Waco, and therefore its legacy, is local non-profit Creative Waco with its ARTPrenticeship program. Creative Waco, which started in summer 2018, is a nonprofit organization with a goal to support the culture and creativity of Waco, according to their website. It is a program which allows high school students the opportunity to learn from experienced artists through the creation of a mural or two each year. “The primary goal [of ARTPrenticeship] is [employing] young people of high school age who learn how to run a creative project from concept to completion,” said Fiona Bond, the executive director of Creative Waco. “It’s an apprenticeship and work readiness program… They learn everything from how to create a business plan, how to work with a client, how to work to a design brief, how to calculate material costs, time costs, how to manage your work site and manage health and safety issues.” The apprenticeships are available to rising high school juniors and seniors in the Waco ISD school system. Applicants go through an extensive application process that requires work samples, a letter of recommendation from a parent or mentor and, for finalists, an in-person interview with a Creative Waco staff member. “A lot of the time, this is the first time that they’re interviewing for a job so it teaches them what they can expect as they move forward, whether it’s interviewing for college or interviewing for just a part-time job,” said Kennedy Sam, the director of marketing and communications for Creative Waco.
The concept of ARTPrenticeship came after Bond visited Cincinnati with the Waco Chamber of Commerce. In Cincinnati, there is a similar program, Artworks Cincinnati has been operating since 1998 and has contributed to over 12,000 projects. “For them [Cincinnati], it’s been a really successful way of raising up a whole generation of new artists in their community by teaching them the skills that are needed in order to take a project from concept to completion,” said Bond. “We put a very Waco spin on the concept, but we invited their director and their director of programs down to Waco to do a three-day intensive with us.” A large piece of the eight-week program is deciding what the murals will depict and represent. In 2018, Will Suarez, a local graphic designer and illustrator, and a few other teaching artists collaborated to design what is now the “1,000 Hopes for Waco” mural located in downtown Waco on the stretch of Jackson Avenue between University Parks Drive and Second Street.
The base of this program is about supporting artists and paying artists, not expecting stuff for free.
The process changed for the murals designed and painted over summer 2019. At the beginning of the apprenticeship, the teaching artists and students assigned to each mural met with residents and business owners
from the areas where the walls are located. During these community consultation sessions in East Waco, the young artists were able to understand the history of the neighborhoods in which they were painting and the legacy that the community wanted to leave for the people who will live and work in East Waco in the future. “Their designs were in response to what they were hearing in the community,” Bond said about the concepts the apprentices came up with after meeting with the people of East Waco. Each mural had a team with a lead artist who was able to unify the visions and contributions of each individual artist. Richard C. Thomas, a celebrity artist from New Orleans, was the lead artist for the mural now located at Brotherwell Brewing at 400 E. Bridge St. It is an abstract design featuring symbols that are important to the East Waco community. “He’s got an absolute passion for arts and education,” Bond said. “And he really has been very influential in New Orleans at setting the agenda for apprenticeship and shepherding of young talent, and growing the African-American artistic community throughout the country.” Thomas usually spends his summers teaching students in New Orleans through his Summer Intensive Art Camp, but even before he knew about the ARTPrenticeship program, he decided not to host his camp last summer. He was contacted by the ARTPrenticeship program after a couple from Waco saw his artwork at a jazz festival in New Orleans. His schedule happened to work well with the weeks that the apprenticeship would be taking place, so he spent his summer in Texas adding mural art to the Waco community and teaching young people how to create and complete a project of that magnitude.
“I have been successful as a teacher, which was unexpected for me to go into teaching, because I just wanted to be an artist,” Thomas said. “[…] I saw gang banging and the violence among young African-American youth, and I felt like I wanted to make a difference. And so the best way to do that is to teach and to be close to young people, to support them, and to create opportunities for them, to help them to have access to what they needed to know and understand to be successful.” His experience growing up in New Orleans, the path he took to become the artist he is today and the people that invested in his talent as a young artist were influential in shaping how he approaches teaching art to his students. “All I needed was a kid who’s interested, then my job is to find a way to inspire them so they’ll be lifelong learners,” Thomas said. “And then not only that, but they understand that they can make contributions to the world.” At the Martin Luther King Jr Community Clinic at 1911 North M.L.K. Jr. Blvd., Suarez was the lead designer of the mural that features a woman with blue skin and hair in front of a colorful background facing fruit and flowers drawn in a stark black and white. “What I loved about both artists [Suarez and Thomas] and all the other artists that we employed this year as teaching artists is that they really wanted to bring out what the apprentices were seeing [in the community],” said Stephanie WheatJohnson, the ARTPrenticeship project manager for Creative Waco. These murals now adorn the walls of their respective buildings, adding color and life to the spaces they take up. “We really want to generate not just colorful, interactive, interesting artwork, but really high-quality artwork that would
stand on its own in a gallery anywhere in the world,” Bond said.
We want to cultivate young people who see how important creativity is as a transferable skill to anything they end up doing.
Another major part of ARTPrenticeship is enabling artists to make a living out of their artwork. Cade Kegerreis, one of the teaching artists hired for ARTPrenticeship for the 2018 and 2019 programs, emphasized how important that aspect of the program is, not only to the teaching artists but also to the apprentices. “The base of this program is about supporting artists and paying artists, not expecting stuff for free,” Kegerreis said. Wheat-Johnson echoed the importance of the financial aspect of the program. Not only is Creative Waco paying the artists who create the murals, but the artwork is created partly to develop a more attractive cultural life in the city that can therefore transform itself into opportunities for Waco’s economic growth. “I hope we’ll be able to track maybe even an economic impact in some way,” Wheat-Johnson said. In order to keep this program growing, there will be a need for more teaching artists in the future. Megan Major, one of the teaching artists involved in the 2018 mural, underscored that the success of this
program relies on experienced artists who believe in the spirit of the program to get involved in the process. “I would encourage some students from Baylor to apply as a teaching artist, which is really good experience,” Major said. “They’re going to need teaching artists in the future to keep the program successful.” There is no question that the program has evolved since the beginning of the apprenticeship in 2018. During the first year of ARTPrenticeship, the apprentices and professional artists only painted one mural, but in 2019 they were able to create two. Wheat-Johnson has big ideas for the future of the program. “One thing that really appealed to us early on in talking about ARTPrenticeship was that the format can be applied to other mediums, and I hope that’s something that will grow in the next few years because you could just as easily do music or film, dance, a play,” Wheat-Johnson said. Wheat-Johnson’s vision for the program does not stop at the other avenues that the apprenticeships might take in the future, though. She hopes that each person involved in the program, whether it be the apprentices themselves, the teaching artists or the Creative Waco staff, takes away significant meaning from their experience with ARTPrenticeship. “I think the deeper thing that they learn, hopefully going through the program, is that they aren’t alone. And in fact, that as far as the community and so on at large is concerned, there are wonderful things for them to get involved with right here,” Wheat-Johnson said. The students who are involved in the program have expressed that their time in the apprenticeship has added to their understanding of their own self-worth. Bond specifically recalled an apprentice making a comment that the time she spent working with other artists on this project made her
feel like she had finally found people who really understood her. “This was the first time she ever felt like she was truly understood and surrounded by people who got her creativity and thought of it as a positive,” Bond said. The heart of ARTPrenticeship is to create an opportunity for young artists to not only grow in the craft, but also to recognize the importance of their creativity in every aspect of their lives. “We want to cultivate young people who see how important creativity is as a transferable skill to anything that they end up doing,” Bond said. Throughout their time in the program, the team at Creative Waco hopes the apprentices found a place that taught them something about themselves and the legacy that they can leave in their community. “I hope that they leave maybe knowing something better about themselves, which is what art is hopefully about, what that creative process is: gaining insight into yourself and who you are, where you make meaning in the world,” Wheat-Johnson said.
Close-up view of the MLK Jr. Clinic Mural 1911 North M.L.K. Jr. Blvd
Mural on Brotherwell Brewing 400 E. Bridge St.
Mural on 1,000 Hopes for Waco Downtown Waco
A Nonprofit for Nonprofits
Waco Foundation supports long-term success for other nonprofits STORY AND ILLUSTRATION BY TRONG MAI PHOTOS BY WILSON HUI AND AUDREY LA Among the numerous nonprofits working to create a better Waco, the Waco Foundation prides itself in working behind the scenes rather than taking the forefront. The organization was established in 1958 and is dedicated to strengthening the Waco community through supporting nonprofit organizations across McLennan county. The foundation provides a wide variety of services ranging from managing charitable assets, providing grants to nonprofits in the county, hosting workshops and trainings that aim to bolster an organizations’ board and staff. Natalie Kelinske is the director of communications and donor services at Waco Foundation graduated from Baylor majoring in journalism. Kelinske spends her days maintaining relationships with philanthropists and acts as Waco Foundation’s public relations. “We really answer to the entire community. We see ourselves as a neutral partner to our nonprofit organizations,” Kelinske said. Waco Foundation deviates from the stereotypical nonprofit in that they do not utilize volunteers. Rather than directly servicing the community, the foundation manages funds for other nonprofits and supports the work they do by providing them with helpful resources. From grants that allow for the purchase of new equipment, such as computers, or trainings that teaches nonprofits how to successfully create an infrastructure that is essential to expanding their reach in the community. “We have funds that are designated for the charities that have put the money here for an endowment to support their cause, and then we have another set of money here that donors overtime have given to that supports our grant making, our competitive grant making. It supports the work we do around race equity, around early childhood and leadership development,” Kelinske said. The staff at Waco Foundation are paid staff who get paid through a separate fund set up specifically for them. In addition to juggling the myriad of services they offer to nonprofits; the
organization aims to build lasting relationships with philanthropists and donors. “The foundation is designed to exist in perpetuity. When we’re talking about legacy really the foundation is a legacy partner for people and institutions,” Kelinske said. Waco Foundation creates an annual report every year that describes the organization’s utilization of monetary funds as well as to update and thank donors and the community for the money they raised. The Animal Birth Control Clinic dedicates itself to providing low prices for medication and procedures to reduce the financial burden on pet owners in Waco. The organization was established in 1988 and continues to thrive due to the support from the community and the assistance from Waco Foundation. “I can’t imagine doing this work without them,” executive director of the Animal Birth Control Clinic Carrie Kuehl said. The Animal Birth Control Clinic is only one of many nonprofits in town that has been touched by the Waco Foundation. ABC provides procedures such as neutering, rabies shots or longterm heartworm treatments are significantly cheaper than the prices at other veterinary clinics. “They have taught me 90 to 95 percent of what I know and the growth the clinic has experienced and the growth I have experienced professionally and personally can be attributed to Waco Foundation and the other foundations in town,” Kuehl said. Kuehl started working at ABC 13 years ago and has been working with the foundation for about 15 years. When she first started, Kuehl estimated the clinic only provided about five surgeries a day, one day a week and currently the clinic performs roughly 46 surgeries per day, five to six days in the week. “They have trained us to operate sustainably… and we have to run it sustainability so that
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it’s here for the community no matter what and doing that responsibly comes from training from the Waco Foundation,” Kuehl said. The growth ABC has experienced can be attributed partly through time, but Kuehl revealed that before working with Waco Foundation ABC did not have an executive director or an administrative staff and nearly 13 years later, ABC continues to be one of Waco’s most prominent nonprofit organizations. “This is my 11th year, when I came (to the Family Abuse Center) our budget was something like $600,000$700,000 and now we’re over two million. I can absolutely, without blinking, assure you that there is no way this organization would have a budget of that size and have the broad services we provide in this community if we didn’t have the capacity building expertise and consulting that we get from the Waco Foundation,” executive director of the Family Abuse Center, Kathy Reid said.
Natalie Kelinske, director of communications and donor services at Waco Foundation
Waco Foundation is doing the work now to create a brighter future for all Wacoans and all of McLennan County, so I think that our board and staff have that long-term mentality and perspective.
The Family Abuse Center is a nonprofit in McLennan County that has also attributed their growth and success to the Waco Foundation. The Family Abuse Center focuses their work around helping families recover and work through domestic violence. Like Waco Foundation, the Family Abuse Center also offers a multitude of services all aimed to assisting victims of domestic violence. “Waco Foundation is doing the work now to create a brighter future for all Wacoans and all of McLennan County, so I think that our board and staff have that long-term mentality and perspective,” Kelinske, said. The growth ABC and the Family Abuse Center have achieved does not happen overnight and Kelinske, along with the other staff at Waco Foundation are committed to leaving a legacy by equipping other nonprofits the tools they need to survive against time. Aside from their ventures in leadership training and consulting, Waco Foundation also collaborates with other foundations and institutes throughout McLennan County and unites their efforts to create more opportunities to educate nonprofit staff. “We partner with the Racial Equity Institute, they come in we are working to train community leaders, community members and the nonprofit sector. It’s a two-day training that they provide and it’s really sort of about how the history of race and racism is so systemic so it’s involved in every system that we really have as a society and how that continues to play a role today,” Kelinske said. At these trainings the Waco Foundation is intentional
on who is invited to participate. Community leaders are invited to come and learn, but the foundation also wants to give minorities a safe space and a chance to voice their opinions. Overall, the work Waco Foundation does is not only for the immediate resolution of community problems, but foresight in preventing new problems as well. The Waco Foundation actively works towards leaving their own legacy through the long-term success of the nonprofits they support. “We know that it may take us years and years and years to realize the fruits of our labor that’s going on now, but when you have forever to work with, that’s okay, so our board and staff and our supporters are all on the same page and are comfortable with doing some hard work now so that we’re improving quality of life for future generations,” Kelinske said.
Carrie Kuehl, executive director of Animal Birth Control Clinic Photo Courtesy of Animal Birth Control Clinic
They have taught me 90 to 95 percent of what I know and the growth the clinic has experienced and the growth I have experienced professionally and personally can be attributed to Waco Foundation and the other foundations in town
Kathy Reid, exectutive director of the Family Abuse Center
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THE LEGACY OF WACO’S TAXIDERMISTS STORY BY PAIGE PHILLIPS & PHOTOS BY AUDREY LA
It’s hard to drive though Waco without noticing the numerous taxidermy shops. This certainly makes sense in a rural area with plenty of ground for hunting, but the climate in Waco is changing. Since becoming a tourist destination due to the popularity of the HGTV series “Fixer Upper,” Waco is rapidly gaining more trendy forms of food and entertainment. Add to that the large college population and Waco is quickly becoming a city with a younger demographic. Vegetarian Times reported that 42% of vegetarians are 18-34 while only 17% are over 55. The newest generation is becoming more interested in diets such as vegetarianism or vegan-ism leading them to be less inclined to purchase animal products in Waco. Which begs the question, what will be the legacy of taxidermy businesses in the future? Jernigan’s Taxidermy is one local business that boasts over 40 years as a full-service taxidermy shop. In addition to taxidermy, they also have an in-store knife business which ranges from hunting and carving knives to pocketknives even to standard kitchen knives. However, they maintain their primary business in taxidermy. They are adept in adorning businesses such as restaurant, hotels and night clubs. This makes for a diverse range of customers. Prominent ones include a cigarette conglomerate, a home-style-cooking restaurant, an award-winning barbecue restaurant, a mainstream movie studio and a Las Vegas casino. One thing to notice while in the store is the large number of steer horns, this is because they have a completer steer horn manufacturing system of both polished and unpolished steer horns. Since Texas longhorns’ horns are somewhat unique compared to the horn of an average bull, the horns make for a good feature for those who seeking a distinct western look for their restaurant, home or movie studio. As well as selling already mounted pieces, they also do commissions for those who wish to mount a trophy. Premade pieces tend to range from $50 to $600 dollars while commissioned pieces can run from $95 for white tail deer horns to $5,000 and up for a full body mount of a brown bear, not exactly Ikea prices but with more meaning and value to the customer. Although they no longer do commissions for birds or fish, this certainly doesn’t limit them more common deer head mounts. Some pieces seek to imply action, such as a mounted badger grabbing a snake in his mouth. Other mounted animals tended more to the comedic side, such as an armadillo drinking from a beer bottle or
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a squirrel rowing in a small canoe. There was not a classically unusual specimen like a jackalope, however there was a thermometer mounted on a deer foot. The staff was kind and willing to answer any questions and keeps relatively busy, profiting off the legacy they have already built serving the greater Waco community. The path to leaving a legacy as a taxidermist is not a path that is tread on lightly. The work involves preserving dead animals by crafting models from their preserved skin. The creative process can go one of two ways. Either the taxidermist strives to make the animal look as close to alive as possible, or they go more of a fantasy route to make an imaginary animal incredibly realistic, such as the jackalope. A meticulous craft, good taxidermy is a skill that requires both a detail-oriented personality and creative inspiration. Without knowledge of animal anatomy, it is difficult to be detail oriented when working with dead animals. Although taxidermy does not require a formal degree, classes in biology and anatomy gives beginners a head start. A degree in biology, fine arts, or business is even more useful to this end. Skills in carpentry, woodworking, tanning, molding, drawing, sculpting and casting are essentials to the actual process. The actual process requires a strong stomach as taxidermists must remove the skin from the animal and replace their insides with a mold. This process often includes the use of a harsh chemicals such as borax or formaldehyde to preserve the body. Many taxidermists consider their work an art. Similar to many artistic career paths, taxidermy requires both on-the-job training and hours of practicing. Many states require a state taxidermy license. While Texas does not, taxidermists in this state are required to maintain certain records and are restricted from the sale or possession of certain protected species. In lieu of a license, The National Taxidermy Association supplies professional certifications to help those seeking an entry into the profession. Another way to get some experience is to apprentice with an established taxidermist. Like many industries of the past, the legacy of taxidermy is intertwined with the value of mentorship. Work as a taxidermist pays around $30,000-$50,000 a year. While many taxidermists are simply making a living and growing their business, some taxidermists use their skills to demonstrate their work in educational and artistic fields. One taxidermist who embarked on the path not only to make a living but to leave a legacy was Jan Van Hoesen. Van Hoesen entered the competitive taxidermy world with a flurry of wins at state, national and international levels. Winning awards both from the judges and Peopleâ€™s Choice awards, Van Hoesen brought something special to the table, according to her peers. With poses not seen before in taxidermy works and her small mammal pieces, Van Hoesen had accomplished what all taxidermists strive for but few succeed at. Van Hoesen had captured the rare essence of the species. One famous example is Van Hoesenâ€™s 1992 bobcat, a World Champion, in which the bobcat is reclined on its back in a mossy bank and is twisting its head to look inquisitively at the viewer. Far from a carcass the bobcat appeared to be truly alive. Some had to check the chest to make sure it wasnâ€™t breathing. Van Hoesen had a secret, however. She had a special method of understanding the
Buffalo at Mayborn Museum
Habitat scene in Mayborn Museum
Longhorn at Mayborn Museum
smallest detail of the form, function, and focus of the lives of these animals. At her home, she kept dozens of live animals. These included bobcats, lynxes, raccoons, foxes and coyotes. Van Hoesen’s grasp of the essences of these species was based on her daily personal interaction with her cohabits, taking inspiration from life to give their long-lasting legacy in death appear to have life. If taxidermy is an art whose goal is to capture the essence of the species, and one of the best way to truly capture that essence is to be around live animals, it begs the question: Why do any animals have to die for this art in the first place? One could argue that no animal lasts forever but a mounted animal could carry the essence of the species to many generations. But that still leaves questions that many animal supporters must reconcile. To explore this point of view more in depth, here are the insights of Madisyn Puangco, a Baylor sophomore and vegetarian.
What is your opinion of the general taxidermy industry?
I, personally, do not see the appeal in the taxidermy industry. I believe that the animals that are being killed and displayed as taxidermy could easily be observed in the wild instead where they would not be harmed.
What is your opinion of stuffed animals used for educational purposes such as museums?
I think that artificial stuffed animals are a great resource to use for educational purposes as students are able to see up close what a wild animal looks like and its anatomical structures. Artificial stuffed animals would be a good non-taxidermy resource for museums. It even could be possible that taxidermists could use the same skills they use with living animals to graft fake fur to a Styrofoam mold. However, many museums still have real animals that have been processed by a taxidermist. Notably the Museum of Natural History, there is a hall full of taxidermy animals. While all the animals in the hall are real, most of them had died of old age before being donated. This alleviates a lot of concern held by those creped out by the exhibit. The goal of the exhibit was to demonstrate the vast variety of mammals on earth. It intends
to endear the visitor to the animals by allowing them to see in the details the similar details such as hairs, skin, and ears that make them not so different. It is important that humans can develop a respect for animals in order treat them fairly. With the artificial technology that is available today it is possible that the connection wouldn’t be the same as it is with what was once a living animal. The exhibition’s rare animals that are not often available to go outside and find, are animals like the Chinese pangolin, an armadillo-like creature, and a pink fairy armadillo and the molelike addition of the armadillo. Upon reading about the Chinese pangolin, one woman said, “It uses the skin on its back to seal up its burrow like a bunghole.” It is interesting to note that preserved human bodies aren’t exempt from museum display either, the mummies and ice men always cause a stir. While legacy of an animal who lived once is more meaningful that of an object that was never alive, but the cost of cutting the animals life short should be heavily considered.
How do you feel about people hunting and then stuffing the hunted animals as trophies?
I do not like nor do I condone the hunting and killing of animals for trophy purposes. Dead animals should never be seen as trophies as trophies insinuate a competition, but there could never be a competition between a wild animal and a human with a weapon. There is no “winner” in this competition and therefore I do not approve of dead animals being used as trophies.
What about people stuffing roadkill animals or their pets who have died naturally? People who stuff roadkill and/or their pets that have died naturally are not doing anything wrong, in my opinion, because the animals died of natural causes. These people are simply preserving animals that were not harmed purposefully. Some taxidermists, such as Amanda Sutton, only do business with reptile feed, roadkill, and animals that died of natural causes. She creates taxidermy to preserve the beauty of the animals.
We’ve talked a lot about taxidermy as a skill or method to preserving an animal’s essence or legacy and little about it being harmful and hurtful to animals. Although there are many reasons different reasons for taxidermy, one of the most common is as hunting trophies. To capture a hunter’s perspective, I interviewed Chancellor Wimmer, a local hunter.
Do you think taxidermy can be an art form? Madisyn: I do not believe taxidermy should be considered an art form because any art form involving
animals should be observing that animal in its natural habitat, alive and breathing. That is real art, not lifeless eyes and bodies being mounted on someone’s wall. Chancellor: I don’t know if it could be considered art but maybe a way to show off or even purchased second hand to decorate.
Do you think there is a way taxidermists can market to newer generations that are drifting away from animal products? Madisyn: I do not think there is a way for taxidermists to market their products to generations that are straying away from animal products because taxidermy is an animal product in and of itself. As a result, I do not think anyone who does not use animal products would be interested in purchasing taxidermy. Chancellor: I don’t think taxidermists are reaching out to newer generations or need to, I still see plenty of people getting animals taxidermized. The people who are involved in hunting will always know about taxidermists and have an interest.
The legacy of local taxidermy will be determined by the future. As it now stands it is interesting that while studying the taxidermy industry and talking with local stores, most if not all taxidermists would call themselves artists. However, two young people of opposite ends of the spectrum on this issue both agree that taxidermy does not appear to be an art form. Perhaps taxidermists leave their mission statements more on the interior, not wearing their “essence of the species” on their sleeve.
They say art imitates life, but does it still ring true when art is imitating life through death? Their creative legacy aside, the taxidermist’s business legacy depends on death imitating life well enough for it to hold value to someone. If taxidermists don’t need to reach out to newer generations and can always rely on the business of hunters, then their legacy could continue indefinitely.
However, if the hunter population dries up is it hopeless to reach newer more animal conscious generations? There are other ways that taxidermists can redirect their business and artistic skills. Like Amanda Sutton, they can ethically source their business for animals that were not killed for this singular purpose. They could help make advancements in realistic artificial animal models. They could even try their hands at preserving a vegetable, there’s a huge market for rotting proof pumpkins this time of year. Today, the customer base for taxidermy is still strong in the hunting and exhibition industries. However, even if that were to change, there appears to be multiple alternative routes for taxidermists to still leave a legacy for the future for their craft.
What kind of taxidermy products have you gotten done? Why did you want to have them? Do you have any experiences with taxidermists in Waco? Chancellor: My only taxidermy is a Mallard duck my grandpa surprised me with after my first successful hunt, and it was done in South Carolina. So I don’t have any experience with taxidermists in this area.
Journaling for Generations
Daily reflections can establish a written legacy STORY & PHOTOS BY CAMILLE RASOR
lmost as a response to the pressure to succeed that can come from our parents, our mentors, society at large or even sometimes ourselves, the typical American adult books their calendars so full that there is little room left for self-reflection and, as a result, personal growth. Those who do try to escape the never-ending cycle of deadlines and overbooked planners do so through the simple act of daily journaling, and over the years, some people have accrued memories and records of nearly every stage of their personal story. Dr. Nicole Kenley, a professor in Baylor’s English department who studies contemporary American fiction, has been journaling for 20 years. She began her daily diary entries in 1999 as a way to track her commitment to her New Year’s resolutions when she was 15 years old, and it quickly morphed into a way for her to process her day and the way she felt about it. “It’s a daily process of self-reflection to think about what I’ve done well, what I have struggled with and to just process the thoughts and emotions I have at the end of the day,” Kenley said. Over time, these daily self-reflections have added up to fill 18 books that started out with blank pages but now contains the stories of Kenley’s life. “It really gives me an opportunity to see how I have grown and changed as a person,” Kenley said. “If I look back at some of those early journals, particularly as a high school student, I almost don’t recognize myself. But that’s part of my story. That’s part of my journey. It’s helpful to say, ‘You know, I have come a long way. I have grown a lot.’” That same experience of looking back on personal growth through the entries in her old journals is also true for Baylor junior Madalyn Watson. Watson has been journaling since her elementary school days. The ability to look back at what her daily life used was as a child and teenager has not only shown her how much she’s grown, but it has also helped her recognize pieces of her life that she used to enjoy. As she has gotten older she has found herself having less time for those things. “I spent a lot of alone time in high school. I wasn’t constantly with other people, and I loved to just spend an entire day like drink my cup of coffee, eat some cookies in the morning when I shouldn’t have, read all day, maybe watch a movie and then journal until I fall asleep,” Watson said. “That for me was a perfect day in high school, and then I found myself in college constantly surrounding myself with people. And I enjoyed it. I loved meeting new friends and everything, but looking back at my old journals actually made me realize like I do really enjoy being alone. And it’s something that I’m trying to put back into my life, having that alone time and having time to just be creative on my own.” Both Kenley and Watson, though they are at different points in their lives, find journaling to be an effective way of understanding their life and putting the emotions into context. Sometimes, however, it can be hard to find the time or energy for them to write their thoughts down on the page. “There are obviously times when I’m having a bad day or I’m struggling with something or my life feels like a wreck, and I don’t want to write it down because it’s so difficult, even to think about it,” Kenley said. “But even in those moments when it’s most challenging to reflect on what’s happening, I think the process can be still valuable… The times when I don’t feel like it, when I genuinely don’t want
to do it, those are the times when it’s really the most important.” This process of consistently expressing your emotions and the events of your day through journaling can have actual psychological benefits. Dr. Wade Rowatt of Baylor’s psychology and neuroscience department commented on the ways these benefits have been studied in the academic psychology field. “Inspired by Jamie Pennebaker’s groundbreaking research at UT-Austin, dozens of research studies show small, beneficial effects of expressive writing on physical and psychological health,” Rowatt wrote in an email. “Expressive writing can reduce stress and even impact immune-system parameters.” That stress reduction that Rowatt mentioned is something junior Baylor student Emily Stellburg experiences when she writes in her journal. “My mind runs a million miles an hour most of the time, so being able to take the time to process through them all is seriously so helpful to me. It’s hard to explain, but I feel relieved after writing,” Stellburg wrote in a private message. Kenley also expressed that same feeling of stress relief. In fact, if she gets too busy to write in her journal for a day or two in a row, her stress level usually elevates more than it does when she has to opportunity write about her day. “When I don’t do it for a few days, I get a little more stressed, more frazzled,” Kenley said. “I have a little less time for self-reflection and self-care.” Unlike Kenley and Watson, Stellburg has only been journaling for about three years now. As such, she has yet to build up a stack of journals from decades past. However, she is looking forward to the day when she will be able to reminisce on her life through her journals. “[I started journaling at] the end of my senior year and I was starting to become nostalgic because I knew that I’d be moving away soon,” Stellburg wrote. “I wanted to preserve all the memories and feelings of my senior year and I just kept going. I know that one day I’ll look back and be so grateful for taking the time to write what all was going on in my life.” For Kenley, journaling is a deeply personal experience, and she doesn’t ever see sharing her entries as something she would want to do. “I’m so raw in them. I’m so concerned with getting my feeling and thoughts out rather than protecting people’s feelings or emotions, that I would be very unhappy if they got out,” Kenley said, emphasizing that these journals are for her and her alone. However, Watson feels slightly differently about the concept of sharing her journal entries. Though she is not comfortable sharing them with the world (at least right now), she does see value in sharing them with her future children. “I have journals in my closet in my apartment from like, when I was 8, and it’s like these short little stories and what I did at school that day, and that’s the kind of thing I would maybe want to show my kids,” Watson said. Starting good habits like journaling, however, can often be tricky to turn into something you do consistently. Rowatt explained what steps one could take to make it easier for them to start good habits, whether that habit is journaling or something else, and why it is worthwhile to put effort into it. “There are myriad health benefits of journaling, exercising, and processing emotions. But starting and maintaining good habits or breaking bad habits isn’t easy,” Rowatt wrote. “Wendy Wood, a social psychologist at USC who studies habits, has found that it’s most effective to simultaneously break unhealthy habits while starting healthy ones. Sometimes it helps to have a few friends or family to start the new good habit together.” Specifically, in regard to journaling, everyone who journals and interviewed for this piece expressed the ability to look back on their lives as a big personal reward from their journaling habit. “Re-reading all my past entries brings me back to all the emotion of the events that I’ve written about,” Stellburg wrote. “I get to see my growth, which is really cool and something that wouldn’t be so clearly seen if I didn’t journal.” Watson echoed that same sentiment when talking about the struggles she went through when she was younger. “[Those struggles] seemed like the end of the world when I was 16, and I was able to get through it. So whatever seems like the end of the world now, I can get through that, too,” Watson said. Whether we acknowledge it or not, our past selves have left a legacy for our current selves of who we have been and what we have been through. That legacy informs the creation of who we will be in the future, and for some, journaling helps them to understand that legacy in a way that grows them, and in the end, shapes them into better people.
Paving New Paths Children of immigrants know all too well the need to make their parents’ struggle for a better life worth something, and that doesn’t stop when they get to college. As students, their desire to carry on their parents’ legacy manifests itself in their diligent work ethic and their ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. They display their culture like a badge of honor because they comprehend how hard their parents fought for them to be able to do so. Although many children of immigrants can agree that their backgrounds have shaped who they are today, each child has a unique story that they want to share with the world. STORY BY ANNA TABET PHOTOS BY RYAN FELLER
Elenista Lam Elenista Lam’s mother had the experience of escaping a wartorn country before reaching the age of 4. Because of the civil war in Indonesia, her mother’s family decided to flee to China. The decision was mainly fueled by the communist propaganda being consistently exposed to them, promising them a better life. However, when deciding between potentially risking his family’s life or staying in China, Lam’s grandfather chose the safety of his family. However, this decision to stay in China didn’t impact them for long. When a family friend with the same last name lent them their version of a green card, they were able to leave China and immigrate to Macao. Macao ended up being the birthplace of Lam’s parents’ love story, as well as her childhood home. Lam’s parents weren’t the only ones who found love in the “Las Vegas of Asia,” however. Lam’s aunt, a working nurse, happened to find a particular American nurse cute enough to marry him in six months and move with him to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Lam’s grandparents followed in stride, uprooting their life and moving with them to Tulsa. Unfortunately, Lam’s move to America wasn’t under such positive conditions. When Lam’s grandfather suffered from a stroke, Lam’s mother knew it was time to come to America to care for her father and prepare for her children’s futures. “Family ties are very important, especially in Asian culture,” Lam said. Attending elementary school in America presented Lam with some unexpected issues. Seeing as the rest of her childhood was spent around children with the same cultural background as herself, being immersed in an entirely Western community made her feel out of place and unwelcome. “My mom would pack me lunches that were filled with food that I loved and I would open it and people would be like, ‘What the heck is that?”’ Lam said. “That was when I definitely felt the push against my own culture. I didn’t want my culture. I wanted to fit into this Western view of what they wanted me to be.” Lam struggled with accepting her culture and creating a community around her background, until she began college. After years of never having an Asian community, Lam had seemingly given up on that aspect of her life. However, witnessing an event on her college campus where Asian students were sharing the beauty within their culture freely with anyone that would witness it really sparked a newfound passion for it in her life. She now acts as vice president of the Asian Student Association and wouldn’t trade the cultural legacy she was given for the world. “Coming to Baylor actually made me realize that I should be proud of my culture, wear it on my sleeves, embrace it and educate others about it,” Lam said.
Coming to Baylor actually made me realize that I should be proud of my culture, wear it on my sleeves, embrace it and educate others about it
Ahfaaz Merchant Ahfaaz Merchant’s parents were acting selflessly on his behalf long before he was even born. Leaving India to move to Nairobi, Kenya, Merchant’s father worked at a small business, in hopes of saving up enough money to bring his wife and their future children to America for a better life. After a year of saving up funds, they made the decision to spend that money on securing the best hospital in Nairobi for their son’s birth. Although a severe setback, prioritizing the safety and security of their children was never a point of contention in their lives. A year later, they had finally re-accumulated the funds needed to move to America and create a life with more opportunities for themselves and their children. Although it may have seemed like the difficulties were all behind them, the life they dreamed about required unwavering dedication and work from both them and their children. They all met the challenge without hesitation. Merchant depicted his elementary school years as challenging. At home, he was immersed in his family’s culture and communicated by speaking Hindi. But at school, he had to readjust to what his classmates and teachers deemed a normal, American way of life. “It was a bit of a challenge trying to adapt to the things going on in school,” Merchant said. “I was speaking one language at school and one language at home. So it was difficult in the sense of me having to adapt to the people and their culture.” While Merchant struggled with school, his parents fought daily for a better way of life for their family. They both picked up multiple jobs, knowing ultimately that their hard work would come to fruition. Although it may not have been the most glamorous life, Merchant recognized that if he had a different background, he would not be half of the determined student he is today. “It was like those stories from rags to riches,” Merchant said. “My parents came here with nothing. My dad worked at a couple dollar stores and my mom worked at a sandwich store here and there.” Soon after, Merchant’s mother and a close family friend both attained a contract to open a store for the phone company Sprint. One small store blossomed to over 150. During this time, they also began an LED business, making them successful entrepreneurs in their own right. Merchant credits his parents’ business tactics and drive to his current career path of being a finance major with a pre-law academic track. “For them to have brought me over here, given me the education that I have, and go to a college like Baylor University, I don’t think there’s anything in my way to not be successful,” Merchant said.
I was speaking one language at school and one language at home.
Leo Robles Leo Robles has never had much of a say in how he chooses to carry on his cultural legacy, because for generations, it’s always been through music. Despite the fact that his grandparents came to the United States from Mexico for more job opportunities, they never abandoned their dreams and true passion for pursuing music. This may have meant that Robles’ grandfather had to hold two jobs, being both a construction worker in the daytime and a singer in a mariachi band at night, but if it meant he could do what he loved, his family was willing to do whatever they needed to do to make it happen. “My grandpa technically had two jobs,” Robles said. “So it was really onto my grandma, my dad and his siblings to keep the household together.” Although Robles’ grandparents and his father had to work hard to maintain both their economic security and home life, they never struggled to preserve their Mexican culture. This pride in their cultural background trickled down to Robles and is still something he cultivates in his daily life. Whether that be through living in “Little Mexico” in Houston, or by being an officer in the Hispanic Student Association at his school, he always finds a way to stay connected to his roots. When not immersed in a community that shares his culture, Robles uses his background as a sort of icebreaker with people. His willingness to be open about what he’s experienced and his Mexican heritage has allowed him to forge relationships with people from all different walks of life, which is something he’s truly come to take pride in. Robles didn’t hesitate when questioned how he wanted to carry on the cultural legacy that’s been passed down to him from his parents and grandparents. He truly sees music as a main defining factor in who he is as a person today, just as his father and grandfather before him saw it, so he saw it to be no different in regard to his future children. “Since my grandpa was a musician, and my dad became a musician, I, in turn, wanted to be a musician,” Robles said. “And I still even want my kids to be musicians.” Robles derives much joy from speaking on his family and sharing his culture through the music he consumes and takes part in frequently. Something as simple as making a picture of his father and grandfather in their mariachi uniforms the background of his Spotify playlist speaks volumes to how fondly he feels toward his Mexican culture.
My grandpa technically had two jobs. So, it was really onto my grandma, my dad and his siblings to keep the household together.
Roy Mourad Roy Mourad lived the majority of his life in Lebanon. He built a community at his high school, was engrossed in his Lebanese culture every day and fell in love with the rural landscape that defines Lebanon. Mourad made a life for himself in Lebanon, which made it all the more difficult when his parents made the decision to move his family to America in 2014. Moving at any age or distance is difficult, but moving from the Middle East to the United States presented Mourad with some challenges. Thankfully, the private school he attended in Lebanon had taught him English, so there wasn’t much of a language barrier to overcome. However, he still felt disconnected from the world he had always known and admired. Mourad reminisced on the beauty of Lebanon’s landscape, citing the ease of traveling from the beautiful beaches to the towering mountains as one of the main things he missed once he moved. “My grandpa used to take me to a different countryside every month,” Mourad said. “I miss feeling like I live in a rural country.” Alternately, however, being separated from his culture and having to witness and live in American society provided him with some unique perspective. Mourad noticed the difference in the kind of intelligence required to live in both cultures. He explained the need to be able to know your way around certain villages in Lebanon, whereas in the United States academic intelligence is more frequently relied on and used. “Growing up in Lebanon, you have to be street smart,” Mourad said. “There’s a common saying, ‘Wherever you throw a Lebanese person, they always land on their feet.’” Since initially not wanting to move from Lebanon, Mourad said he now feels settled into his life in America. His parents opened up a Lebanese restaurant in Houston, giving them the ability to share their food and culture with the area. He has also been able to connect to his culture and learn about other Middle Eastern cultures through becoming an officer of the Middle Eastern Student Associate on his college campus. Although not currently living in Lebanon, Mourad stayed firm on his need to pass on his cultural legacy to his children. Whether that be through teaching them Arabic or walking them through the steps on how to make shawarma, he knows his children will be just as proud as he is to be Lebanese.
Stacey Hermenn Stacey Hermenn has known the depth and resiliency of her Mexican culture her entire life. The Bracero Program, a farm labor agreement signed between the United States and Mexico, allowed her grandparents to move to California. Despite their distance from their home, they maintained their culture so strongly that the current generation still feels an intense connection to their Mexican heritage. Hermenn felt incredibly grateful for the ability to connect directly to the culture of her ancestors when they periodically visited her family’s hometown in Comanja, Michoacán. She’s reminded of her grandmother teaching her how to make tortillas and other authentic Mexican food. She feels enchanted by the music that pulls the community together. And she said she feels welcomed by each and every person she encounters. “The people are very genuine,” Hermenn said. “They’re really humble. They make you feel at home once you get there. That’s why whenever I come back, I feel like I’m leaving a piece of my heart out there.” Although her family wouldn’t be where they are currently in life without the work her grandparents put in, Hermenn still accredits much of her personality and disposition to lessons her parents taught her growing up. She said she never once felt shame or a need to hide her culture from her community when she was younger. Instead, she was taught to take pride in her background and be open and kind to everyone she encounters. “My parents raised me to be humble, always be genuine to everyone, and when people criticize you, my dad would always say never take it badly,” Hermenn said. “Take it as an example to do better and that’s the way I’ve taken it my whole life.” Hermenn said she always has and will hold her family and culture very near to her heart. However, her family’s love and prioritization of God is never forgotten through their repetition of the phrase “Primero Dios,” or God first. Hermenn never once questioned whether or not she would carry on her cultural legacy to her future children. Knowing that her culture made her who she is today, she knows that her children would benefit from the same lessons and background that she was accustomed to her entire life. “My culture is something to love forever. It’s in my blood. It’s a part of me,” Hermenn said. “It’s something I can’t remove. If I lose it, it’s like losing my identity. And that’s why I’m proud to be Mexican-American. I always introduce my Mexican and American side because I have both to be proud of.” A butterfly paid Hermenn a visit at the end of the interview. She explained that in her culture, a butterfly landing on someone signifies a visit from an ancestor. To many, it may have just seemed like an interesting occurrence; but to Hermenn, it was as though her ancestors were thanking her for sharing her pride in her culture with those she encounters.
My culture is something to love forever. It’s in my blood. It’s a part of me.
Ekene Ijei Ekene Ijei was immersed in Nigerian culture very early on in her life. Speaking mainly Ibo, the language of her family’s tribe in Nigeria, and comprehending the dynamics and cultural traditions of Nigeria defined much of her childhood. This was all thanks to her grandmother whose lack of fluency in speaking conventional English and eternal pride in her culture translated easily to the granddaughter she helped raise. Ijei is still influenced to this day by the many traditional Nigerian principles that she was immersed in as a young girl. One main one is her unwavering acknowledgment of the reverence of elderly people. This immensely respectful view of the elderly is one that Ijei witnesses a lack of daily in current American society. “I am shocked sometimes when I see someone not giving up their seat to an elderly person or letting an older person cut in front of them in the grocery line,” Ijei said. “It’s shocking but I just have to remember that it’s a different culture. It doesn’t mean disrespect here. But if I did that in Nigeria, like if I didn’t greet an elderly person when they came into the room, people would look at me like I’m crazy.” Other than the view of elderly people as royalty, Ijei credits Nigerian pride as an overall positive in her culture. She described the pride she witnessed Nigerians display as one unmatched by many other cultures she’s encountered. Similarly, Ijei displays her admiration for her culture through food. Her grandmother frequently cooked traditional Nigerian meals for neighbors and fellow church-goers, allowing them to partake in her culture. Ijei now parallels that in the cultural legacy she aims to carry on, mainly through both her faith in God and her desire to pave bright paths for the African American community. While Ijei now has love for her Nigerian background, it wasn’t the easiest getting to that point. Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, in a predominantly white community and school district, continuously made Ijei feel like an outlier. She found herself comparing her achievements and looks to the standards of those around her. Now matter how well she did, she felt as though there was always a contingency because of the color of her skin. “I really love Nigerian pride and I wish that was something I learned to assume earlier in my life,” Ijei said. “I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood and school and I just felt like I was always ‘other.’ And yeah, I’m ‘other,’ but I could’ve been prideful in being ‘other.”’ Coming to college, however, provided Ijei with an African-American community that shared the same drive for excellence and understood the obstacles she had to overcome to achieve everything she has. Because of this, she was able to view herself and her background in a positive light, as well as being given the opportunity to grow from the pain and anger she experienced in school. “Coming to college really helped me learn to love myself and white people as well,” Ijei said. “And I didn’t know that love for both could coexist.”
Changes in the Capital Baylor alum finds meaning in the service of his community as executive director of the D.C. State Board of Education and as a voice for inclusion at alma mater STORY BY KYLE DESROSIERS PHOTOS COURTESY OF JP HAYWORTH John-Paul “JP” Hayworth, a 2001 Baylor graduate, is working with a large network of Baylor alumni and students to push for adequate resources and support for LGBTQ students at Baylor. Justice and inclusion are values central to his profession as executive director of the D.C. State Board of Education, where Hayworth works to build an accessible educational system in the District of Columbia. Adjacent to this commitment to educational justice is Hayworth’s recent engagement as a Baylor University alum seeking to make the university more inclusive for students of diverse backgrounds. Hayworth was recently inducted into the Baylor Line Foundation Hall of Fame for his professional accomplishments. These include his public service with the State Board of Education and as president of the National Council of State Board of Education Executives. Hayworth has also been an invited speaker at conferences and forums across the nation, including the recent 2018 Baylor Interdisciplinary Core (B.I.C.) Alumni Homecoming Lecture entitled “The Role of Failure as Part of the Examined Life.” Hayworth, an alum of the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core (B.I.C.), cites the holistic education the Core affords as foundational to his vocational development. “B.I.C. was an amazing program,” Hayworth said. “It provided a way for students to be involved in setting their own curriculum, which was especially unheard of in that time.” In 2001, Hayworth received a B.A. from Baylor in history and international
studies. As an undergraduate, he sang with the Men’s Glee Club, an organization which is now called the Baylor Men’s Chorus. Additionally, Hayworth was a section editor for the Roundup, Baylor’s yearbook. “It was fun being a yearbook editor. At that time, before social media, everyone still wanted a good write up in the yearbook and I got to go to all the functions without having to be a member,” Hayworth said. According to Hayworth, his years at Baylor left a lasting impact. “The education I got at Baylor was really good, but the best part of Baylor is the people, students and faculty,” Hayworth said. “Most professors really care for their students.” According to Hayworth, many close friendships were forged in the community of the Interdisciplinary Core or among the men of the old Brooks Residential Hall, and have lasted into adulthood. “The people on my floor became friends because of the shared experience,” Hayworth said. “We had a group of people that stuck with each other all throughout college and beyond.” Hayworth also cites certain professors, such as Lenore Wright and Anne-Marie Schultz, as influential mentors who helped him cultivate character while at Baylor. When asked about Hayworth, Lenore Wright said that she remembers him for his leadership, conversationalism, and wisdom beyond his years. “I matured spiritually and intellectually while a Baylor graduate
student under the guidance of outstanding professors in philosophy,” Wright said. “I have seen incredible former students like JP undergo a similar maturation process, transforming themselves into other-centered thinkers and doers by the time they graduate.” Experiences at Baylor shaped Hayworth into a person who was interested in the world and loved learning. However, he has one regret: being too afraid to come out to many of his friends and pushing them away without giving them a chance to be trusted, Hayworth said. “I shut myself off from people who I never talked with about my sexuality about but assumed they would treat me badly,” Hayworth said. “I really regret that.” After graduation, Hayworth attended the University of Connecticut, where he received an M.A. in international studies with a focus on Europe in 2003. Since 2003, Hayworth has lived in Washington, D.C. serving in a variety of policy-oriented public service occupations. Hayworth began his work in policy as an undergraduate congressional intern in 1999. After graduate school, he began his first full-time position as a junior researcher for a lobbying firm. He originally hoped to pursue foreign service, but had difficulty finding a way in without connections. Though it was not his original plan, Hayworth stayed with the lobbying firm for four years and built a strong client base. He was successful in this time but said he felt convicted that it was time for a change.
“I felt like I didn’t give enough back,” tration used to say, ‘everything good that address, “The Role of Failure as Part Hayworth said. “Working for people who had happens I want my staff to take the praise for, of the Examined Life.” spent their entire career as staffers for the and everything bad that happens I will take Ultimately, he said, failure is vitally Senate Appropriations Committee was the fall for,” Hayworth said. “She was a hard important in the development of one’s interesting, but I wanted to use that character and vocation. This develtraining to do some good.” opment began during his years as a In 2008, Hayworth joined the Baylor Bear. Washington, D.C. mayoral office as a The decades of Hayworth’s alum life I have been involved with letter writing staffer in local domestic politics. But have been spent engaged in community and campaign work to change policies at organizations. He has been particularly after a short tenure, the administration Baylor so the university can fulfill its decided to make staff changes and active in several LGBTQ organizations in many employees, including Hayworth, mission of being a truly loving Christian Washington, D.C. Hayworth is an active lost jobs. part of the Gay Men’s Chorus in D.C., institution that supports students from where he continues to pursue his love “It was 2009 and the recession hit,” Hayworth said. “I sent three or four for making music. During his early years marginalized groups. hundred resumes in that time and it in Washington, D.C., Hayworth joined a wasn’t working out.” group of gay and lesbian professional lobHayworth remembers that time as byists to found Q Street, a LGBTQ lobbyists Hayworth a period in which he could cultivate association. humility and practice patience at the “Whatever kind of lobbying you were circumstances. A friend of his was working for boss and held us accountable, but God forbid doing, it was a group of gay folks who got the House Transportation Committee, and anyone from outside came for us.” together for happy hour to meet and be confound Hayworth an unpaid position. Hayworth aspires to emulate this leadernections for each other. There were a bunch “I was in the door so I could potentially ship style. He said he ensures that staff knows of folks working in the gay rights movefind something new. I was 31 and reporting to they will receive praise for their success and ments, and folks who didn’t,” Hayworth someone who had just graduated from be free to make mistakes to learn and said. “We all came together, and it is now college,” Hayworth said, laughing at the broaden skills. one of the most powerful memory. “But she left four weeks after I joined As a young professional, so they ended up hiring me for her position.” Hayworth had faced many In the 2010 election, the Chair of the twists and turns in his career. Transportation Committee, Jim Oberstar There were many periods of (Dem., Minnesota), who had been a House uncertainty. However, as member for three decades, lost by 4000 an executive for a State votes. Board of Education, When elected officials lose, so does their Hayworth now leads staff. Hayworth became unemployed again. decision-making that He soon began working for the D.C. mayoral can improve equity administration of Mayor Gray, working on and accessibility for federal affairs, housing, and economic students from across development. Then, Mayor Gray lost the district. reelection in 2014. His staff all needed to find These twists, turns, new jobs. and even disappoint“I felt like I had bad luck,” Hayworth said. ments were the theme “Every elected politician I ever worked for lost of Hayworth’s B.I.C. their next reelection.” Homecoming In 2015, Hayworth joined the State Board of Education as Executive Director, a position he still holds today. Hayworth is responsible for managing and overseeing all operations of the State Board. These range from administrative duties in human resources to policy research for the development of state educational standards. Hayworth said that he looks to his former boss at the mayor’s office for inspiration on how to lead. “Janene, my boss at the Gray adminis-
lobbying groups in D.C.” Hayworth returned to Q Street for its tenth anniversary in 2013 to be recognized as a founder. “So much has changed for gay people in the world of politics,” Hayworth said. “At the time it was especially needed for the gays to stick together because quite frankly we could still lose our jobs. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in early October 2019 on that very question. ” Hayworth did not choose LGBTQ advocacy as the focal point of his career, but said his identity and desire to advocate for people at the margins has been a central motivation as he seeks a career in public service. In addition to his success as a professional public servant, Hayworth is involved in the efforts to make Baylor a more inclusive place for diverse students. He self-describes his style as “behind-the-scenes” advocacy. Hayworth is part of a large network of LGBTQ and ally Baylor alumni who are pushing for administrative change at Baylor with respect to policies regarding queer students. “I have been involved with letter writing and campaign work to change policies at Baylor so the university can fulfill its mission of being a truly loving Christian institution that supports students from marginalized groups,” Hayworth said. Recently, Hayworth and other notable alumni, such as D.C. attorney Skye Perryman, supported students in the creation of a petition signed by more than 3,000 Baylor faculty, students, and alumni that called for increased resources, support, and policies in place to protect LGBTQ students at Baylor University. These efforts stand alongside other student efforts which included a letter sent to the NCAA asking for examination of Baylor’s Title IX compliance in light of what its authors cite as Baylor’s lack of support and for its LGBTQ students. Skye Peryman, 2003 Baylor alum was a close friend of Hayworth’s at Baylor. She said the two became even closer as alumni. Both Perryman and Hayworth are both recipients of the Distinguished Young Alumni award, which recognizes outstanding community service, achievement, and distinction among Baylor alumni. Perryman said that she admires Hayworth’s commitment to serving others and bravery, especially as they have joined efforts in advocacy for inclusion at Baylor. “The education JP and I both received from Baylor taught us to think critically and examine biases,” Perryman said. “It is precisely that education that has led us to question and examine policies at the university with respect to LGBTQ inclusion. We join voices with a majority of Baylor students and faculty, who believe that all students should be treated with dignity and respect.” Hayworth said he was sexually assaulted while an undergraduate at Baylor, and because he was gay, which was both against the Baylor student code of conduct and not well-received within Baptist cultural expectations of the time, he was afraid to report the incident to administrators. “This is one of the reasons I am pushing for Baylor to recognize its LGBT students as a benefit, rather than a problem,” Hayworth said. “I don’t want anyone else to go through the same experience of feeling alone and isolated as I did.” According to Hayworth, Baylor is designed to be a different place than other institutions, such as Texas A&M or the University of Texas. He said the university’s mission is to have the love of God and Christ at its heart. Hayworth said he believes that Baylor has the ability to embody to be a shining example of Christian love. “As a gay alumnus, I feel an obligation to push my school to ensure that it is a place of learning, growth, and We are Christians. Exclusion love for all students, whoever that is,” Hayworth said. “We are Christians. Exclusion of people who are minorities or of people who are minorities religious minorities or LGBTQ is not who we are.” or religious minorities or John-Paul Hayworth, proud Baylor alum, embodies the LGBTQ is not who we are. legacy of Baylor University. This legacy is the formation of people who serve the world humbly, engage their intellects, and strive to sow healing everyday. Hayworth’s story shows the twists, turns, and imperfections of life. It also inspires current Baylor students with Hayworth the power that dedicated, brave individuals have to sow change in a community they love.
A Glimpse at a Different Life
A Christian, agrarian community offers a countercultural lifestyle for all. Story & Photos by McKenzie Oviatt
COMMUNITY In June of 1973, Homestead Heritage started as a small chapel in the slums of New York City with around 30 members sharing a common goal––to have a peaceful chapel, bringing diverse people together. Although the church members lived in separate units, when they came together they wanted to embrace each other with inclusion and cooperation. As the city grew more congested and industrialized, the church members went back to their roots: seeking wholeness, simplicity and sustainability. The community in Lower East Side Manhattan relocated and started forming other fellowships across the world––one large congregation eventually settling in Waco, Texas. Today, the Texas community has about 190 families. People living in the Homestead Heritage fellowships try to apply biblical principles to everyday life.They sanctify themselves from secular practices, they take care of one another and they are an agrarian community. They do not have active participation in politics, they do not share from the same pool of money and they are not detached from the rest of Waco. The community is composed of people born into the community, people who have experienced great personal transformation and those who slowly assimilated into their
society. They are accepting of anyone who is willing to embody the values of those shared at Homestead and they are willing to talk to people about living among them. Marc Kuehl is an example of a man who lived a turbulent life as a young adult and dramatically changed his life with the influence of those at Homestead Heritage. “When I was young, I became infatuated with gangs and drugs and the whole hip-hop culture and it set me down a destructive path of drugs, gangs, running from the police and getting kicked out of my parents’ house,” Kuehl said. After being involved in the wrong crowd, Kuehl was facing a 15-year jail sentence. Kuehl said he spent the next several months trying to do good, but ended up fighting in nightclubs or doing drugs. He was drawn to the life he was so familiar with. In 2005, Kuehl pleaded to a lesser charge and was released from jail. “I had to make a commitment to let God change my mind and change my path. I tried to refrain from cursing or thinking about things I knew I shouldn’t. Six months later I pled to a lesser cause and got off early. After I got out of jail, I was back to his old ways and mixing with the wrong crowds again,” Kuehl said. “It wasn’t until something radical happened to me that I truly changed my life around.”
Cheese wheels at Homestead Heritage
The radical transformation happened when Kuehl got out of prison. He decided to visit his 16 cousins in Texas to find a different way of life. It was then that he found Homestead Heritage. “I did not want to stay in Texas on a farm with a bunch of Christians. It was not my idea of fun, but I was open to anything,” Kuehl said. “So I showed up bald-head, tattoos, earrings, cigarettes, baggy-clothes, big attitude. I thought I was a pretty tough guy.” One of his cousins showed him around the property and told him that he should consider living at Homestead Heritage. Within one hour, his cousin saw right through his tough-guy facade. “I felt like God started to change the way I looked at things, the way I thought about things. I wanted to become this new person,” Kuehl said. Since 1999, Kuehl’s cousin, Rebekah, has had a hobby of making cheese at Homestead Heritage. Kuehl worked outside in the Texas heat for the first six months of living at Homestead. After Kuehl found a job opening at the cheese shop, working indoors, Kuehl said it seemed like an easy decision to take the job. Soon after he started working at the Brazos Valley Cheese shop, Kuehl was enthralled with the cheese-making process. He started selling 30 pounds of cheese per week at the local farmers market. Word spread of Kuehl’s transformative testimony and people grew interested in knowing more about his story. People said the cheese tasted delicious, but it was also Kuehl’s story that drew the customers in. People started bringing their friends to the farmers market and said they wanted Kuehl to recount his story in front of more people. “Those people heard something they haven’t heard before, they saw something they couldn’t believe, they felt something when they heard my story and they tasted something. All their senses were engaged. There is something in cheese-making that is a ministry,” Kuehl said. “I wanted to make the best cheese I possibly could from that day because I knew it was an honor to God.” Kuehl started to expand the business,
working with chefs all over the state. They moved production across Texas, but finally planted the production line at Homestead Heritage. The Brazos Valley Cheese shop is a “rebel with a cause” as they compete against large dairy farms. Their sustainable process that they use to make the cheese along with the motivation that their work is an honor to God is what they believe drives the business forward. Although Kuehl joined the community later in life, he has seen his life transformed by embracing a new community that strives to leave a different legacy. From their business models of sustainability to their personal testimonies, Homestead Heritage is vividly set apart from other communities. Many community members have backgrounds similar to Kuehl’s. They saw a different way to life and decided to adapt to their ideals. There are also other people who came into the community with similar values already. Sally and Derek Varejka joined the community after being missionaries. Together, they have seven children who have all been raised and homeschooled in the Waco fellowship. When Sally graduated college, she worked as a nurse before serving as a missionary with her husband. Sally discovered Homestead Heritage and they couple grew increasingly interested in what type of life it provided. After touring Homestead several times, they immersed themselves in the community. Derek bought the cafe that is located at Homestead and emphasized food preservation and served locally sourced food. Whether people came from the religious mission field or were committing crimes before coming to Homestead, the community is intoxicating. The community members eventually all share the common goal of producing quality goods with ethical methods. Another way that Homestead sets itself apart is how they treat the youth and the elderly. With an emphasis on creating a legacy built upon family and intentional community, many couples have multiple children and choose to homeschool them. The parents communicate with each other about how they can share the responsibili-
ties of teaching the children. “We believe in teaching children real, tangible skills that were once taught in previous generations,” Derek said. The children are taught the basic lessons that other children receive in school, plus more hands-on experience. They choose a craft that they are interested in and create something throughout the school year. After the basic lessons are taught, the children can choose subjects of their choice to heavily invest in. One of Sally and Derek’s children is learning Russian, their eldest daughter works as a seamstress and their younger daughter plays musical instruments. The children have full independence to embrace their natural skills. Just as the community comes together to help the children mature, they also collaborate on how to care for the elderly people. As the beginning members of the Texas fellowship ages, the need for elderly care increases. The community members
The community takes care of one another throughout the duration of their lives. They view children as a gift from God and the elderly as a group of people to learn valuable wisdom from, Sally said. One way to learn more about the community and experience their lifestyle is to visit during their annual fair. In late October and early November, children living at Homestead Heritage make an assortment of crafts and handmade goods to sell at the annual Homestead Fair held on Thanksgiving weekend. Around 200,000 people come from around the world go to see their quality craftsmanship. The children make small goods such as pillows, beanies, scarves and pottery. The children are a large component to the production of the Homestead Fair. “The children will show their skills in blacksmithing, woodworking, boat building, quilting, weaving, cheese making and food preservation,” Sally said. The children practice for weeks at a time in preparation for the 100-voice children’s choir and 40-piece orchestra performance at the fair. For hours children sing and play their instrument while the younger children and parents watch. Instead of playing on electronic devices and complaining about the cold air or hours they spend sitting, they are hard at work crafting their pieces that will be sold during the fair. No matter how young the child or how new a member is to the community, everyone has a contributing role in the fair, as well as in the community. The Homestead Fair has brought international attention to its continuing legacy of providing Honey sold at Brazos Valley Cheese expert services, beautiful crafts and ethical farmbelieve in taking care of one another from ing. For a couple days each year, the fair the beginning to the end of life. continues to allow others to peer inside a Since Sally and Derek’s children are different way of life. growing up, Sally said she is looking for Since 1973, Homestead Heritage has other ways to serve the community, now created an internationally known legacy that she doesn’t have young children to for its quality craftsmanship, intentional tend to. Christian living and counterwcultural life“I enjoyed being a nurse and I would style. The Homestead Heritage community love to help our elderly members. They are yearns to live a peaceful, agrarian life that starting to reach a certain age where they offers hope for those seeking a different need assistance, and I could help them,” life and for people wanting to go back to Sally said. their roots.
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