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Maren Nelson

Family Fun: Post-It Note Games

Family Fun: Post-It Note Games 800 350 Maren Nelson

Keep learning year-round with indoor actives like this! Sent to us by our Preschool Pals teachers, you can adapt the game to different skill levels.

You will need: 
A blank wall or door (or even the front of the refrigerator), sticky notes, marker. 

Step 1:
Write each letter of the alphabet on a different sticky note, and put them on the wall or door.
Step 2: 
Ask the child to identify the letter, spell words, or find the letter based on its sound. 
Download instructions for identifying the letter, matching letters, alliteration, and spelling and rhyming for even more fun!

Donations Made in Honor of Black History Month

Donations Made in Honor of Black History Month 2560 1707 Maren Nelson

We were thrilled to learn our wonderful Family Educator Collette was selected to receive over 350 school supplies and books from the Kids in Need Foundation (KINF), sponsored by PNC Financial Services Group! In honor of Black History Month, PNC provided diverse and age-appropriate books, in addition to the many school supplies we received from KINF. These amazing donations are now making their way into the hands of children across the Twin Cities.

A whopping 99% of teachers in the United States purchase school supplies for their students out of their personal funds. In response to that need, KINF provides critical resources to students and educators, and have been a valued partner with Way to Grow for many years. As you can see, our Family Educators were very excited to receive these supplies. Way to go, Collette!

Masking Up Thanks to Hmong American Partnership

Masking Up Thanks to Hmong American Partnership 3334 1459 Maren Nelson

Last week, Way to Grow received a large donation of face masks and hand sanitizer from our community partner, the Hmong American Partnership! Making sure our families and children are healthy and safe is very important to us, and this generous gift allows us to extend a helping hand to families who may not have accesses to the resources they need. Each of our Family Educators received a bag of 125 masks for children and adults, and they couldn’t wait to distribute them! We also received 400 containers of hand sanitizer that are on their way to families around our community. Thank you so much to the Hmong American Partnership and we look forward to continuing our efforts to support our communities together. Thank you!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day! 800 800 Maren Nelson

We think the world could use a little more love. This year, Way to Grow has a Valentine Wish—to spread joy and love to our community! We enlisted the help of our preschoolers to share their thoughts on love. Our hope is that they remind you love is about the little things we do for each other.

Feeling inspired? Join us in our campaign of good vibes by sharing your Valentine Wish on social media! Use #OurValentineWish and help spread the love! Please consider a gift in honor of your Valentine and spread the love to your community.

Meet our newest Board Member, Luis Moreno!

Meet our newest Board Member, Luis Moreno! 3334 1459 Maren Nelson

Tell us about yourself!

I have over 20 years of corporate experience in marketing, strategy and communications at multiple Fortune 500 companies. I have worked in multiple industries, including marine, powersports, outdoor power equipment, hospitality, healthcare, food, foodservice, food ingredients, and banking, among others. I have an MBA in marketing and strategy from the Carlson School, I am a Public Policy Fellow from the Humphrey School and a member of the Young American Leaders Programs (YALP) at Harvard Business School. In the past few years, I have been leveraging my knowledge of and experience in Human Centered Leadership and Emotional Intelligence to collaborate with experts from around the world to train a new generation of leaders to be more human. 

As you look into the future, what do you envision for our community?

I envision a community that is more united, connected and equitable, with good opportunities for all, for high quality education, career, healthcare, wealth, and overall prosperity. I envision a community where we all work together to reduce the achievement gap and the unacceptable racial and socioeconomic disparities. I also envision a community with leaders that are more human to foster workplaces that are healthier and happier.

Why is early education important to you?

Because given the fact that learning starts in very early childhood, I want to make sure that every child is provided with the gift of receiving effective education as soon as they start learning. No time to waste! 

What drew you to Way to Grow?

I have been learning more and more about Early Childhood in the past few years and last year, Vanessa Laird and Carolyn Smallwood told me about the opportunity to join the Way to Grow board. I was impressed with the organization, the work it has been doing, its trajectory, its partners, collaborators and the high caliber board members so I jumped at the opportunity! Thank you, Vanessa and Carolyn!

What do you do in your free time?

I like to spend time with my family, play with our pets, watch movies, series, and documentaries, listen to music, travel nationally and internationally and eat cuisine from all regions of the world!

Thank you, Barnes & Noble!

Thank you, Barnes & Noble! 3334 1459 Maren Nelson

Way to Grow recently received over 1,403 books from a Barnes & Noble holiday book drive at their Mall of America location. These beautiful new books were sorted by age level, making it easy for our Family Educators to distribute much needed books to the families they serve. We are so thankful for companies like Barnes & Noble that care about literacy and use their platform to help get books into the hands of our younger readers. Thank you Barnes & Noble! 

Welcome, New Staff!

Welcome, New Staff! 3334 1459 Maren Nelson

Meet our new Family Educator, Roxanne!

What brings you to Way to Grow?

I have felt aligned with values of Way to Grow’s mission and vision for some time now. After a friend mentioned Way to Grow in conversation about a month ago, I was happy to find, apply for, and accept a position that I feel will fulfill my desire to positively impact the lives of families and young children. 

Where did you work before Way to Grow?

I have worked a variety of positions in the past, including an ABA therapist, home visiting Developmental Therapist, and nanny, but none that have been able to meet my passion for advocacy and progress as closely as this position as Family Educator. 

What excites you most about working at Way to Grow?

The enthusiasm of staff and their determination to encourage positive change in the community excites me every day and it brings me joy to work for Way to Grow! 

What do you do for fun?

In my spare time I do yoga, paint, play with my adorable attention- seeking puppy, and play video games and board games with friends (virtually of course).

Meet our New Development & Communications Associate, Agatha!

What brings you to Way to Grow?

As I was seeking a new position, I wanted to find an organization that shares my values and makes a real difference in the lives of the people being helped. When I connected with Way to Grow, I knew that I had found the right organization. 

Where did you work before Way to Grow?

I have been volunteering and working for nonprofits since I graduated from college. My most recent position was as Database and Development Officer at Books For Africa, a St. Paul-based nonprofit that provides books for schools and libraries across the African continent. 

What excites you most about working at Way to Grow?

I’m excited to be working for an organization that does so much for our local community. I’m passionate about the importance of education for children, so it’s very rewarding to work with likeminded people and to be able to meet and get to know the families we help and see the impact of our work firsthand. 

What do you do for fun?

I have a lot of hobbies! I really enjoy camping and being outdoors, reading, and art. During the pandemic, I wanted to be able to make my own masks so I got a sewing machine and started learning how to sew, which has been really fun. 

Welcome Roxanne and Agatha!

Give to the Max Day success!

Give to the Max Day success! 600 600 Maren Nelson

Thank you for your contributions to Way to Grow to our Give to the Max Campaign. With your help, we raised over $7,300—with $5,000 of your gifts matched by one of our generous sponsors! 

Many families are facing difficult times this year, and our Family Educators are going above and beyond to keep connecting with the families as children are learning from home. Your generosity on Give to the Max Day supported our efforts to ensure that children within the most isolated families are born healthy, stay healthy and are prepared for school. We couldn’t do it without you!

Deborah & Patty

Deborah & Patty 600 600 Maren Nelson

Our unique home visit model allows us to work directly with our community’s most isolated children and their families. Over time we see changes not only in children but also in their parents, with greater parent engagement and self-sufficiency. Through education, we tackle the impact of poverty and help families move forward with lasting results.

As families grow, they change the dynamics in our community. One such example is Deborah who joined Way to Grow when her daughter Patty was three years old. We’ve shared before how Deborah saw her life and Patty’s change for the better because of Way to Grow. One of our strongest Parent Champions, Deborah found her voice in the six years she was with us. This past spring, Deborah and Patty graduated our program and they are now determined to give back.

Deborah recently sent a message asking if Way to Grow needed school supplies for families. Shortly after, she stopped by and dropped off a bag full of new and gently used backpacks. Our Family Educators quickly distributed the needed supplies. In the spirit of families learning together, one of those donated backpacks was given to another mom who is headed back to school and who was truly grateful for her “school supply.”

The support kept coming as Deborah again dropped off school supplies—five bags of notebooks, crayons, pencils, and scissors! It turns out, Deborah was doing her own donation drive to give back to Way to Grow for the years she and Patty benefitted from the program. We were blown away by her generous spirit. Deborah now talks about Way to Grow with other families she meets and shares the impact of our early education program on her family. She is a true Parent Champion and valued community leader.

Family Fun: On the hunt!

Family Fun: On the hunt! 1080 1920 Maren Nelson

Run out of ideas for your kids this summer? Our preschool staff has you covered with a scavenger hunt bingo game!


Download and print off this bingo card and grab a marker.

What to do:

Go on a walk around your neighborhood or anywhere you could find these items. Look around carefully and encourage your child to identify items on the card, as well as the different things you encounter. Encourage older children to lead the hunt by thinking about where specific items can be found, and increase the difficulty by setting a timer. When you’ve found an item, cross it off on the card.


You’ve won when you find five items in a line (vertical, horizontal, or diagonal), or continue until you have found every item. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy your adventure together!

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