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Collaborating with Iowa Starting Line to bring a new series entitled "People of Waterloo." To learn more about the residents of one of Iowa’s most diverse cities per capita, tune in.
El Sara Greer made a name for herself in Waterloo as a basketball star, but she brings more than just her hoops skills to the table. When she's not on the court, she’s either in the classroom encouraging youth to better themselves through education, volunteering at a community event, or spending time with family.
Lawrence Daniel tries to be a role model in the community of Waterloo. As a juvenile court officer supervisor, he provides at-risk youth with opportunities to change their lifestyle before reaching adulthood. He calls it “a roadblock.”
“I love my job because I am able to help rehabilitate or help heal kids who have gotten into some trouble and have committed some delinquencies,” Lawrence said.
Jessica Rucker works to make sure Downtown Waterloo is a place to live, work, play, and visit. As executive director of Main Street Waterloo her goal is to bring more vibrancy to the downtown and continue to be a part of what brings the community joy.
“This has been a group effort for many years and I’m just lucky enough to be in a position to continue to do that,” Jessica said.
Waterloo Center for the Arts Director Kent Shankle and his creative team bring arts and culture to the Cedar Valley. Kent's goals are to provide the community with an opportunity to experience art and come together to learn more about the ways to express themselves.
Kent loves to bring people together with art because art is a powerful tool and a language that everyone can understand.
Matthew Gilbert is an attorney, servant leader, social entrepreneur and a philanthropist. He moved back home to Waterloo ready to help change the status of Waterloo being ranked the worst place in the country to live for Black Americans, according to 24/7 Wall Street.
“I knew I needed to come back home,” Matthew said.
Morg’s Diner do-it-all employee Janie Fox has been known to be one of the kindest women in Waterloo. She’s become a mother, sister, aunt, therapist, and friend to each person she encounters at the downtown Waterloo staple. Janie has been at Morg’s for 40 years and people come to see her just as often as they come for the fluffy saucer-sized pancakes.
She credits her ability to connect with people to the fact that she remembers the most important part of people: their hearts.
Kathy Mahoney is a criminal defense attorney in Waterloo who fights hard for her clients and reminds them that they matter.
“People who are accused of crimes often don’t have someone they can trust so I really try to show that I am a trustworthy person,” she said.
Cora J. Turner is a retired professional school administrator. Cora loves children and dedicated her career to working families, students, parents, and staff in the best interest of success for kids.
“She didn’t have a background in education; she didn’t have a high school diploma,” Cora said. “She instilled into her children that education is important. As [long as I] have breath in my body, I have to continue that thrust. I am my mother’s child.”
Lori Dale is a full-time student at Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo, but before that she spent nearly 11 years working with the Educational Talent Search program.
While she may longer be a talent search employee, Lori said the program remains special to her heart and she is collaborating with it through SHIPT, another program that allows youth to explore different careers and helps them make sound decisions as adults.
Marcus Norris describes himself as a Waterloo community influencer.
“The impact that I make in the community is by trying to get others to see the best in themselves by getting them to chase their dreams and believe in their self and their visions to be successful,” he said.
William Corey Muhammad is better known around Waterloo as Coach Corey.
Professionally, he is co-founder and director of Impact Foundation Inc., Waterloo East High School head girls’ basketball coach, a track coach, an assistant football coach, and a family-support worker for Highland and Poyner Elementary schools.
Coach Corey credits God for his willingness and ability to make an impact on Waterloo’s youth.
Most people in Waterloo would use labels like leader, mentor, advocate, or influencer when talking about Sharina Sallis, but she wants nothing to do with those designations.
“I don’t title myself,” she said. “It’s a label, but then it is also what separates folks. I’m just a person who wants to do good. I want to make sure that I pour into the community so that the generation behind me and my son can reap the benefits of the community that’s been laid before them.”
Waterloo-based personal trainer Ty Smith uses fitness as a way to bring people together and uplift them.
“A lot of people join my class and find new friends, building a sisterhood,” she said. “I also think the fitness portion is making an impact on a lot of people’s personal lives, health, and also self-esteem.”
Joy Briscoe is the executive director of 24/7 Black Leadership Advancement Consortium, a Waterloo-based nonprofit created to help young Black professionals network and become financially empowered.
Joy considers herself an energizer and works to open doors for Black community members.
Sherman Wise is an entrepreneur and branch manager of Premier Staffing in Waterloo. He is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure his community is taken care of where it's providing financial support, creating classes to empower others, or even something as simple as providing a pep talk.
Felicia Smith-Nalls is a community relations manager for Tyson Foods and the artistic director for the North End Cultural Center, both in Waterloo.
Felicia has lived in Waterloo for most of her life and considers herself a catalyst for getting things done in the community.
Budding public speaker Dontavies Perez is a young person making change in Waterloo. He strives to inspire other youth to be the best they can be and not allow anyone or anything to hold them back.
Dontavies encourages other teenagers to follow their dreams no matter what and always use the voice they were given.
Chiquita Loveless believes her role is to love Waterloo and support, motivate and advocate for its people.
“I do that because this is now my home,” she said. “I relocated here four years ago after serving in the United States Navy and I am homesteaded here; Waterloo is my home just as well as someone that was born [here], that’s a native, and so we have to take pride in our community, in our city.”
Former Black Hawk County Public Health Director Dr. Nafissa Egbuonye recently transitioned to a private sector position that also serves the public. She serves as Associate Vice President of Growth and Community Engagement for Molina Healthcare, which became Iowa’s third Medicaid managed care organization in August.
“I hope that the community has seen the values that I uphold, which is servant leadership, it’s who I am as an individual and so that’s why I went from public health now to Medicaid”
Waterloo resident Jaelon Jones has no shortage of titles.
Jaelon is an entrepreneur, artist, show organizer, event planner, studio engineer, mentor, spiritual guide, and a self-proclaimed “beacon of hope. He uses his gifts to bring resources to underground hip-hop artists and youth. Jaelon specializes in working with newer artists.
Isadore Anderson is affectionately known as “The Pumpkin Man” in Waterloo.
When he’s not spending time with his family or volunteering for his church, Isadore makes an impact on the community by donating pumpkins to elementary school students at six Waterloo schools, something he has done for six years now.
“They love it,” Isadore said.
ReShonda Young of Waterloo considers herself a community advocate on a mission to spread knowledge to generate and sustain wealth for underserved communities. ReShonda also founded the Popcorn Heaven franchise before selling the company.
“When I started in business, I didn’t have anyone who was a business owner or landlord who really guided me or mentored me and so I know all of the things I wish I would have had,” she said. “So I try to fill those gaps for other people—"
BeaFitt owner Beauty Fitts is on a mission to make women feel good on the inside and out. She does this through her lifestyle- and fitness-coaching business. After having her daughter, Beauty wanted to become happier with her look, so she began working out and documenting her progress. Through her story, other women were inspired to open up about areas they wanted to improve and through a self-growth experience a community began.
Brittany Sisk is a Waterloo child-care provider and owner of Fit Foods, a meal-prep service.
“I have a passion for health and fitness and so I try to incorporate healthy meal plans/preps for people who are busy but want to be healthy,” Brittany said.
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