Dr. Nancy Grayson, MSEd ’92, has spent 20 years in East Waco putting down roots—literally and figuratively.
When this visionary sees a need, she strives to find practical, sustainable solutions.
“Everything [my husband] Bob and I do, we do it very deliberately,” she says.
In response to poor performance on state tests with the East Waco schools, Grayson started Rapoport Academy, a public charter school, on the former Paul Quinn College campus. Beginning in 1998 with 16 students, the nationally recognized school now serves 820.
“I fell in love with East Waco—the people, the sounds, the activity, the sincerity here,” Grayson says.
In 2012, she shifted to running Lula Jane’s, her bakery at 406 Elm Ave. which also serves as an unofficial community gathering place. Grayson grows some of her ingredients in a vegetable garden—with a water collection system—next to the building she and Bob built from the ground up to look as if it had always existed.
“Food is the common denominator that draws everyone from both sides of the river,” she says. “Every person who walks through that door has value. I don’t care who you are or where you’re from, we treat everyone with respect and kindness, and they give you that back.”
As residential developers, the Graysons are replacing empty lots with beautiful homes. They are building and selling one high-quality, period-style house at a time near Elm Street.
“Nothing is going to happen if someone doesn’t do it, so we are giving it our best to help this community,” she says. “However, development has a ripple effect, and I don’t want to see gentrification where people are displaced from homes their families have had for generations.”
Perhaps more remarkable than their work is the level to which the Graysons give back to the community. At the school, the bakery and in building houses, Grayson doesn’t keep any salary or profit. She invests it all back into the people of East Waco.
“Mixing into a great community experience is so much fun,” she says. “It is work, but when I look out from the kitchen and see the joy of community happening here—you just can’t buy something that provides that much enjoyment.”
The Graysons are proof that opportunity abounds in the Elm Street area. East Waco is trending toward a more concentrated arts area, and multiple Baylor alumni are working on projects along Elm.