What We Do Together Matters

For more than 30 years, Way to Grow has brought the community together to address the serious and prevalent gap in early childhood education in the Twin Cities. While Minnesota may be a leader in education, our children of color are too often left behind. With one of the largest opportunity gaps in the country, we made a promise to our community—we will be there for you.

At Way to Grow, we support families with children from birth to age eight, empowering our next generation of leaders. We are proud to work with more than 1,700 individuals in Minneapolis, Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center—neighbors who work hard to provide for their children and are active in their community and their child’s education. With a team of talented Family Educators, we provide year-round services every day to these families throughout Minneapolis, Brooklyn Park, Brooklyn Center, and surrounding communities.

Our Mission

Working closely with parents and communities, we ensure that children within the most isolated families are born healthy, stay healthy, and are prepared for school.

Our Vision

Together we will ensure that every child has an equal opportunity to succeed in school and life.

“Education is important because without it, people will treat you like you are invisible. I do not want that for my children.”

Lauren, Way to Grow Parent

Paying it Forward

An early start and so much support truly paid off for Octavio. A fast learner, he would pick up new skills quickly and his comprehension consistently challenged his Family Educator to bring different and interesting lessons to the home.

Now a seventh-grader, Octavio’s performance in math and science far exceeded grade level. Yet rather than coasting through his classes, he stepped up to help those around him. “I was just able to grasp what was being taught and then helped others understand it as well,” he explains. Octavio was such an asset to his class that he was asked to help tutor kids in a summer school program.

All for One, One for All

With the help of Patricia, her Family Educator, Lauren was able to get her son Zachariah into speech and occupational therapy, then into a Head Start program. “He first came to us not talking and now we cannot get him to be quiet,” Patricia laughs. “Even this early, I think he knows he has some obstacles, but he is determined to overcome them.”

“Miss Patricia is my backup, my resource. I know I can count on her,” expresses Lauren. Patricia agrees: “We all just have a tight knit bond. Working with them has elevated my experience as a Family Educator.”

People to Look Up To

Often the first and last Way to Grow employee our preschool students see, Mr. Willie makes it a point to be not just a driver, but an integral part of their lives every day. “We bond because I listen to them. Sometimes they have problems, sometimes they have concerns, and sometimes they just want someone to talk to,” Mr. Willie explains. “Each child is different, and they are so intelligent and energetic. When I look at our bus, I see that we have the makings of future lawyers, doctors, politicians—almost every type of position that will contribute to our community in the future.”

Culture to Culture

“Having Alison, having a native person as my Family Educator, has positively contributed to my experience at Way to Grow. There is something about sharing a culture; she just understands where I am coming from and what I am going through,” Sydney expresses. “She makes it easy and comfortable…. Alison and Way to Grow give us access to resources, opportunities, and events that we never would have been able to experience otherwise. They have been able to show us what community really is, and we are so grateful.”

Meet Our Team

Carolyn Smallwood joined Way to Grow in 2004. She previously served as vice president for Sales and Marketing at Twin Cities Rise! and Executive Director of the Minnesota Minority Supplier Development Council (MMSDC) Prior to entering the nonprofit field, she was the Director of Supplier Diversity with ADC, the Broadband Company, and a senior business banker at U.S. Bancorp.

In 2014, the Star Tribune named Carolyn on one of the Twin Cities’ “Top African-Americans of Influence.” She currently serves on the Ciresi and Walburn Foundation Board of Directors, the African American Leadership Forum Board of Directors, Minnesota Comeback Board of Directors (where she serves as Co-Chair), and the MinneMinds Executive Committee. Carolyn also sat on Governor Mark Dayton’s Early Learning Council for four years. In 2014, she was selected by Mayor Betsy Hodges to co-chair the Cradle to K Cabinet. Other previous board positions include the MacPhail Center for Music, the College of Saint Benedict, the Jeremiah Program, the Citizen’s League, and the Children’s Theatre Company. She also served as a member of the Greater Twin Cities United Way’s Early Learning Executive Committee, as well as the Promise Neighborhood Solution Action Group.

Carolyn is a dynamic leader who has a deep passion in serving others and making the world a better place. With a passion for working with diverse communities, Carolyn brings a solid background in business, marketing and strategic development, strong executive experience, and an inclusive leadership style to Way to Grow. She is a bright, influential presence who puts the Way to Grow mission above all.

Program Leadership

Patricia Hayes

phayes@mplswaytogrow.org

Ronel Robinson

rrobinson@mplswaytogrow.org

Angela Hamilton

ahamilton@mplswaytogrow.org

Jeanetta Searcy-Cooper

jsearcy-cooper@mplswaytogrow.org

Family Educators

Alison Dakota

adakota@mplswaytogrow.org

Amanda Erickson

aerickson@mplswaytogrow.org

Amina Ammi

aammi@mplswaytogrow.org

Anthony Allen

aallen@mplswaytogrow.org

Elizabeth Korzenowski

ekorzenowski@mplswaytogrow.org

Eveline Rojas

erojas@mplswaytogrow.org

Juliet Cha

jcha@mplswaytogrow.org

Maria Soto

msoto@mplswaytogrow.org

Maria Varela

mzavala@mplswaytogrow.org

Mariana Villegas Ramírez

mramirez@mplswaytogrow.org

Oluwatomike Bali

obali@mplswaytogrow.org

Pamela Khang

pkhang@mplswaytogrow.org

Roxanne Thiede

rthiede@mplswaytogrow.org

Ruth Gishen

rgishen@mplswaytogrow.org

Santa Rodriguez

srodriguez@mplswaytogrow.org

Shamsa Idle

sidle@mplswaytogrow.org

Shany Fahiye

sfahiye@mplswaytogrow.org

Preschool Pals Staff

Craig Allen

callen@mplswaytogrow.org

Janice Peabody

jpeabody@mplswaytogrow.org

Sheena Moss

tmoss@mplswaytogrow.org

Willie Lane

wlane@mplswaytogrow.org

Office & Administration

Mark Henderson

mhenderson@mplswaytogrow.org

Roggie Robinson

r.lrobinson@mplswaytogrow.org

Dawn Brocken

dbrocken@mplswaytogrow.org

Development & Communications

Kim Bowman

kbowman@mplswaytogrow.org

Melissa Meyer

mmeyer@mplswaytogrow.org

Liz Woods

lwoods@mplswaytogrow.org

Payton Gresczyk

pgresczyk@mplswaytogrow.org

Kate Kinkade

kkinkade@mplswaytogrow.org

Data

Andrew Lindvall

alindvall@mplswaytogrow.org

Daniel Hanson

dhanson@mplswaytogrow.org

Tom Frank

tfrank@mplswaytogrow.org

Leadership

Sophie Kelley, Chair
Senior Vice President, Market Director, Associated Bank

Michael Garrett, Vice Chair
Senior Vice President, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

Laurie Lafontaine, Treasurer
Finance Committee Chair
Retired, Former Vice President of Finance and Treasury, Allina Health System

Robert Barnett, Ph.D., L.P.
Governance Committee Chair
Senior Fellow & Principal Consultant, MDA Leadership Consultants

Jennie Carlson
Fund Development Committee Chair
Retired, Former Executive Vice President of Human Resources, U.S. Bancorp

Kevin Nilan, P.h.D.
Human Resources Committee Chair
Retired, Global Assessment Manager, 3M

Directors

Gaye Adams Massey
Chief Executive Officer, YWCA of St. Paul

Laura Bohlander
President, LRE Foundation

James Boyle
President, James R. Boyle + Associates

Julie Baker
Retired

Dani Deering
Of Counsel, Innova Law Group, PLLC

Mel Dickstein
Retired, Former Hennepin County Judge, Fourth Judicial District

Julia Halberg
Occupational Medicine Specialist, University of Minnesota

Michael Garrett
Senior Vice President, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

Sophie Kelley
Senior Vice President, Market Director, Associated Bank

Laurie Lafontaine
Retired, Former Vice President of Finance and Treasury, Allina Health System

Dr. Yohuru Williams
Distinguished University Chair, Professor of History, & Founding Director or the Racial Justice Initiative, University of St. Thomas

Vickie Mattys
Community Volunteer

Karen Contag
Community Volunteer

Vanessa Laird
Executive Director, Center for Integrative Leadership at the University of Minnesota

Malcolm McDonald
Retired

Christopher Mongeon
Wealth Advisor, Thrivent Financial

Luis Moreno
Co-Founder, The TCBPN

David Nassif
Retired

Jeanne Ravich
Community Volunteer

Art Rolnick
Senior Fellow, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota

Nasibu Sareva
Executive Director, African Development Center

Randy Sauter
Assistant Vice President, U.S. Bank

Frank Schweigert
Dean, College of Community Studies and Public Affairs, Metropolitan State University

Carolyn Smallwood
Chief Executive Officer, Way to Grow

Jamie Stilson
Partner, Dorsey & Whitney LLP

Brian Crosby
Vice President, Community Accountability Officer, Associate Bank

Janice Clay
Retired, Executive Director, Board Chair

Join Our Team

We employ individuals who share our passion for early education and believe that together we can make a difference for the future of children, families, community, and economy. Please check back regularly for updated opportunities.

Current Openings

  • The Family Educator is responsible for conducting outreach activities, intake and assessment procedures, and utilizing participant home-visiting to establish and maintain trusting relationships with families. Responsibilities include teaching parenting techniques and pre-literacy skills to parents and educate parents on the importance of parent participation in early education and developing family plans, goals, and referring families to the appropriate service providers in the community to address the school readiness needs of children from prenatal to age eight.

    Job Functions

    • Conduct intake and assessments with families to assist them in identifying family strengths, developing family goals and a plan of action to achieve those goals.
    • Manages a caseload of 30-35 families in order to provide excellent service to all families assigned.
    • Conducts intake and assessments with families to assist them in identifying family strengths, and goals and working on the steps to achieve the goals.
    • Documents and prepare related reports.
    • Completes bi-weekly home visits to each family with children ages 0-8 to establish and maintain a trusting relationship, as well as, to focus on pre-literacy skill development.
    • Follows early literacy curriculum guidelines while conducting home visits.
    • Trains parents engaging in best practices to ensure that children have a strong self-concept, feel respected, and capable, utilizing the home visiting and center based teaching curriculum.
    • Utilizes the home visiting and center based teaching curriculum.
    • Provides parenting, pre-natal, health information, and education as needed to ensure that parents have the skills and resources necessary to assist their children when addressing school readiness and health needs.
    • Participates in ongoing groups, special events, and other activities.
    • Refers parents and their children to appropriate service providers and follow up to ensure needed services are accessed.
    • Sets annual service and recruitment goals and complete a plan designed to reach individual service goals.
    • Conducts regular outreach activities to connect with families and recruit new participants to the program.
    • Helps to plan and participate in family events.
    • Attends all staff meetings and other meetings as required by supervisor.
    • Works as a team for the overall success and health of the organization.
    • Participates internal and external sessions improving upon personal growth and professional development.
    • Performs other duties as assigned.

    Education

    • Associate’s degree in early childhood education or social science or equivalent education and experience.

    Experience

    • Two years of early childhood education or social work experience serving diverse populations.
    • Valid driver’s license, safe driving record, and auto insurance required.

    Skills & Abilities

    • Bilingual/Bicultural (depending on community’s needs).
    • Proficient with both oral and written forms of the English language.
    • Knowledge of child development and early childhood education.
    • Knowledge of early literacy skill development.
    • Familiarity with diverse cultures and the ability to be culturally sensitive, non-judgmental and open to a variety of parenting styles.
    • Ability to set healthy personal boundaries and limits.
    • Ability to effectively manage a minimum case load of thirty families.
    • Ability to work independently, prioritizes responsibilities, and manages time.
    • Able to work flexible hours, including days, evenings and/or weekends.
    • Dependable, ability to work in groups and team settings.
    • Knowledge of community and available resources.
    • Good judgment and decision-making skills.
    • Ability to use and teach planning, goal-setting, and problem-solving skills.
    • Familiarity with health issues, how health care systems/service delivery systems work, and how to successfully navigate through them.
    • Computer proficiency including but not limited to: Microsoft Office products, data entry, e-mail, and calendar management.

    Physical Demands Required to Successfully Perform Job

    • The physical demands and work environment described here are representative of those that are necessary for an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.
    • While performing the duties of this job, the employee is regularly required to: stand; walk; use hands to finger, handle, or feel; reach with hands and arms; climb or balance; stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl; and talk or hear. The employee must frequently lift and/or move up to 50 pounds. Specific vision abilities required by this job include close vision, color vision, distance vision, peripheral vision, depth perception, and ability to adjust focus. The employee is occasionally exposed to moving mechanical parts, toxic chemicals, and the risk of electrical shock. The noise level in the work environment is usually moderate.

    Compensation: $18.50-$19.50/hour.

    To apply: Send resume and cover letter to HR Manager, Dawn Brocken, at dbrocken@mplswaytogrow.org.

    Way to Grow, Inc. is an Affirmative Action Employer and does not discriminate against any person on the basis of race, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, color, national origin, ancestry, familial status, age, disability, marital status or status with regard to public assistance.

  • The Family Educator is responsible for conducting outreach activities, intake and assessment procedures, and utilizing participant home-visiting to establish and maintain trusting relationships with families. Responsibilities include teaching parenting techniques and pre-literacy skills to parents and educate parents on the importance of parent participation in early education and developing family plans, goals, and referring families to the appropriate service providers in the community to address the school readiness needs of children from prenatal to age eight.

    Job Functions

    • Conduct intake and assessments with families to assist them in identifying family strengths, developing family goals and a plan of action to achieve those goals.
    • Manages a caseload of 30-35 families in order to provide excellent service to all families assigned.
    • Conducts intake and assessments with families to assist them in identifying family strengths, and goals and working on the steps to achieve the goals.
    • Documents and prepare related reports.
    • Completes bi-weekly home visits to each family with children ages 0-8 to establish and maintain a trusting relationship, as well as, to focus on pre-literacy skill development.
    • Follows early literacy curriculum guidelines while conducting home visits.
    • Trains parents engaging in best practices to ensure that children have a strong self-concept, feel respected, and capable, utilizing the home visiting and center based teaching curriculum.
    • Utilizes the home visiting and center based teaching curriculum.
    • Provides parenting, pre-natal, health information, and education as needed to ensure that parents have the skills and resources necessary to assist their children when addressing school readiness and health needs.
    • Participates in ongoing groups, special events, and other activities.
    • Refers parents and their children to appropriate service providers and follow up to ensure needed services are accessed.
    • Sets annual service and recruitment goals and complete a plan designed to reach individual service goals.
    • Conducts regular outreach activities to connect with families and recruit new participants to the program.
    • Helps to plan and participate in family events.
    • Attends all staff meetings and other meetings as required by supervisor.
    • Works as a team for the overall success and health of the organization.
    • Participates internal and external sessions improving upon personal growth and professional development.
    • Performs other duties as assigned.

    Education

    • Associate’s degree in early childhood education or social science or equivalent education and experience.

    Experience

    • Two years of early childhood education or social work experience serving diverse populations.
    • Valid driver’s license, safe driving record, and auto insurance required.

    Skills & Abilities

    • Bilingual Spanish speaker, with knowledge of Hispanic culture.
    • Proficient with both oral and written forms of the English language.
    • Knowledge of child development and early childhood education.
    • Knowledge of early literacy skill development.
    • Familiarity with diverse cultures and the ability to be culturally sensitive, non-judgmental and open to a variety of parenting styles.
    • Ability to set healthy personal boundaries and limits.
    • Ability to effectively manage a minimum case load of thirty families.
    • Ability to work independently, prioritizes responsibilities, and manages time.
    • Able to work flexible hours, including days, evenings and/or weekends.
    • Dependable, ability to work in groups and team settings.
    • Knowledge of community and available resources.
    • Good judgment and decision-making skills.
    • Ability to use and teach planning, goal-setting, and problem-solving skills.
    • Familiarity with health issues, how health care systems/service delivery systems work, and how to successfully navigate through them.
    • Computer proficiency including but not limited to: Microsoft Office products, data entry, e-mail, and calendar management.

    Physical Demands Required to Successfully Perform Job

    • The physical demands and work environment described here are representative of those that are necessary for an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.
    • While performing the duties of this job, the employee is regularly required to: stand; walk; use hands to finger, handle, or feel; reach with hands and arms; climb or balance; stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl; and talk or hear. The employee must frequently lift and/or move up to 50 pounds. Specific vision abilities required by this job include close vision, color vision, distance vision, peripheral vision, depth perception, and ability to adjust focus. The employee is occasionally exposed to moving mechanical parts, toxic chemicals, and the risk of electrical shock. The noise level in the work environment is usually moderate.

    Compensation: $18.50-$19.50/hour.

    To apply: Send resume and cover letter to HR Manager, Dawn Brocken, at dbrocken@mplswaytogrow.org.

    Way to Grow, Inc. is an Affirmative Action Employer and does not discriminate against any person on the basis of race, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, color, national origin, ancestry, familial status, age, disability, marital status or status with regard to public assistance.

  • A great way to get involved with Way to Grow is to volunteer. We deeply appreciate the generous donation of time and talent our volunteers provide. Check out our volunteer opportunities and see if you might be a good fit for Way to Grow!

    Your Name (required)

    Address

    City

    Zip

    Your Email (required)

    Phone

    Preferred contact method:
    EmailPhoneEither

    Available days:
    SunMonTuesWedsThursFriSat

    Time of day available:
    MorningAfternoonEvenings

    Services interested in:
    preschoolspecial projectsteen parentsadministrativeeventsother

    Opportunity interested in:

    Language(s) Spoken besides English:
    AmharicArabicHmongOromoSomaliSpanish

    Other languages spoken:

    Emergency contact (name, phone, relationship):

    Volunteer agreement (required):

    I understand that during the course of my volunteering at Way to Grow, I may come in contact with information that is deemed confidential. This includes, but is not limited to, personal information about Way to Grow participants. I understand that Way to Grow is required by law to keep this information confidential, and I will treat all information I come across as such unless I am told otherwise.

    I understand and agree that I am volunteering for Way to Grow at my own risk and request. I also give permission for the free use of my name, picture and voice in any broadcast, telecast, print account or any other account in any medium of the event being recorded.


    I Accept

    Additional Message: