Community Partners

Way to Grow is at Sommerfest!

Way to Grow is at Sommerfest! 2560 1920 Maren Nelson

Way to Grow is excited to announce our participation in the Minnesota Orchestra’s summer concert series, Sommerfest. Celebrating Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday, Sommerfest “explores musical expressions of peace, freedom and reconciliation in a celebration of Nelson Mandela’s Centenary.” It is in the spirit of ubuntu, or “I am because we are,” Way to Grow and other nonprofits and fair trade businesses were invited to install art and engage with Orchestra patrons and the wider community throughout the entire multi-week series.

To celebrate our Way to Grow community community, three preschool classes have combined forces to create a representation of our homes and neighborhoods as seen through the eyes of a child. Each box has been creatively decorated by a Way to Grow child and added to the whole, representing the truth that we are all part of one community promise. The preschool “city” will be on display from July 14–August 1 and is on view on the Balcony B Lobby of Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis. The lobby is open to the public two hours before every concert so stop by and explore!

A huge thank you to the Minnesota Orchestra for allowing us to be apart of this amazing event!

Lasting Partnerships: NorthPoint Health & Wellness Center

Lasting Partnerships: NorthPoint Health & Wellness Center 150 150 Susan Cossette

Making sure our families are healthy and ready to learn is a team effort. Since 1991, Way to Grow has partnered with NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center in Minneapolis to ensure that every child is physically, socially, emotionally, and cognitively ready to succeed in kindergarten—and beyond.

NorthPoint is a pillar of North Minneapolis and has been serving families in the area since 1967. Located just down the road from Way to Grow, they provide a broad range of medical, behavioral health, dental, and social services to our community. Way to Grow has partnered with NorthPoint for over two decades to support families and children, referring clients, and helping them to access this high-quality care.

As part of this partnership, NorthPoint’s OB/GYN care team of clinical staff and social workers refer their patients to Way to Grow. While NorthPoint provides medical and social work services, Way to Grow works closely with parents on healthy living and early education skills and follows up on the progress of each referral. Together we weave a net of security for Minneapolis families, making sure all of our families’ needs are met.

“It is vital that our parents and children receive wrap-around services, including follow-up,” explains Way to Grow Program Director Ronel Robinson. “No one agency can do it all.”

NorthPoint and Way to Grow also work together on broader community outreach, cross-promoting our programs and services. Each year, Way to Grow participates in several NorthPoint events to reach even more families, including the Outdoor Market and their annual Fit for Fun event. Our staff also attend regular networking events at NorthPoint, resulting in positive, collaborative relationships between our teams.

“NorthPoint’s mission of ‘Partnering to Create a Healthier Community’ is also our strategy for improving health and creating sustainable change in our community,” said NorthPoint CEO Stella Whitney-West. “Our work with Way to Grow families and children in the early years of growth and development is critical to creating a foundation of healthier families living in healthier communities.”  

Way to Grow is proud to partner with NorthPoint as we work together to create a healthier community!

A Volunteer Program that’s Making a Difference

A Volunteer Program that’s Making a Difference 2560 1707 Lisa Bryant

Pictured: Melody, a Wooddale Church volunteer, mentors Anna (left) and Dalylah (center) as they learn about research and making a prediction by testing an object’s buoyancy.

For three years, Way to Grow has collaborated with volunteers from Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie on a tutoring initiative that’s enhancing children’s learning experience.

Two evenings per week, trained volunteers from Wooddale Church provide after-school tutoring to children, ages 5-8 years, who attend Lucy C. Laney Community School in North Minneapolis, or reside in the community.  The volunteers encourage the young learners to tackle grade-level activities in reading, science and math, and guide them through the activities to help them gain an understanding.

“Our collaboration with Wooddale Church has been critical to our families,” says Ronel Robinson, a Way to Grow program director. “Together, we’re empowering parents by helping them create better home-school connections and a culture of learning to improve children’s educational outcomes.”

Way to Grow announces its participation in the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program

Way to Grow announces its participation in the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program 667 553 Lisa Bryant

MINNEAPOLIS—July 26, 2017—Way to Grow, the Twin Cities’ preeminent leader for early childhood and K-3rd grade education has announced today that it is participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and has begun to serve meals at no separate charge to children enrolled at Way to Grow Preschool Pals (Center for Families), 3333 4th Street North, Minneapolis, Minn. 55412.

CACFP is designed to improve the diets of young children and increase the opportunity for children to eat a variety of nutritious foods.  The program is operated by the Minnesota Department of Education, and meals meet nutrition standards established by the United States Department of Agriculture.

In the operation of USDA Child Nutrition programs, no participant will be discriminated against because of race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity.

For more information about Way to Grow’s participation in the Child and Adult Care Food Program, please contact: Craig Allen, Education Coordinator at 612-874-4740, or

To learn how you can help us do more, visit, or call (612) 874-4740. Way to Grow is headquartered at 125 West Broadway Avenue, Suite 110, Minneapolis, Minn. 55411.


Rallying for Minnesota’s Children – Advocacy for Children Day 2017

Rallying for Minnesota’s Children – Advocacy for Children Day 2017 960 638 Ivy Marsnik

Advocacy for Children Day celebrates early learning and gives parents, teachers, early care and education professionals, and communities from across the state an opportunity to stand up and be a voice for children. Led by the MinneMinds coalition, which Way to Grow is actively involved in, our staff and several families we serve are gathering at the capitol in support of equitable, child-centered, parent-directed, mixed delivery approaches to state policies affecting families and children. The 2017 policy agenda MinneMinds leads includes:

Ensuring Quality Care Through Parent Aware
  • Fully fund Parent Aware to continue the expansion of high‐quality early learning programs throughout Minnesota.
  • Support existing rated providers and grow from 3,000 programs to 4,400.
  • Ongoing support for rated providers and implementation of improvement strategies, with a priority on stronger recognition and incorporation of cultural competency.
Increasing Access to Quality Early Learning Through Scholarships
  • Increase funding and access of State Early Learning Scholarships for in need children birth‐to five to attend high quality early childhood development programs (Prioritize children with highest needs, including those facing homelessness and in foster care).
  • Complete efforts to fully‐fund scholarships for low‐income 3‐ and 4‐year‐olds to serve 7,000 new, at risk preschoolers.
  • Add funding for high priority groups for 0 to 2‐year‐olds (siblings, homeless, foster care, child protection) to serve 3,400 new, at risk babies and toddlers.
Assisting More Families In Need Through Home Visiting Programs
  • Increase access and funding for targeted home visiting programs to include 7,000 children in high poverty.
  • Provide community‐led solutions to high‐risk families to help stabilize them and give them a strong start.

What You Can Do

Attend the Rally

Join over 500 fellow early learning advocates as we fill the rotunda at the Minnesota State Capitol on Thursday, March 2, 2017. Activities for children begin at 9 am with the rally beginning at 9:30 am. From 11 am – 4 pm legislators will be available for visits.

Register Here

Submit a Letter and Children’s Art

Whether or not you are able to attend the rally, we encourage you to submit a letter to your senators and representatives and tell them why our state’s youngest learners matter to you. Greater Twin Cities United Way  will collect children’s artwork to accompany the letters submitted.

Mail your artwork to:
Lulete Mola
Greater Twin Cities United Way
404 S 8th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55404

Download Letter Template

Meet with Legislators

Meeting with legislators can be easier than you think. Follow these simple steps:
1) Find out who your legislators are
2) Set up a time to meet
3) Identify your main message and a personal story supporting that message
4) Follow these tips for holding a successful meeting

The Gift of Hope

The Gift of Hope 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

For School Success, Start with Breakfast

For School Success, Start with Breakfast 2048 1362 Ivy Marsnik

Parents know that school mornings can be the busiest time of the day. Between getting kids to school on time, signing permission slips, making sure homework is done, and everything else, breakfast can be a last minute thought. However, unless you are certain your child is eating breakfast at school, breakfast at home is vitally important.

For years we’ve been told we need to eat breakfast. It’s undeniably good for you! Every night, most of us fast, or go a period of time without food, for eight to ten hours as we sleep. To break the fast, it is important we eat breakfast and jump start our day. Breakfast provides important energy to the body and the brain which in turn enables all of us, including our children, to feel better, think better, learn better, and perform better.

Here are a few ideas for a healthy, quick, and low-cost breakfast on those busy mornings:

  • Enjoy homemade granola on top of a fruit and yogurt parfait, or as a standalone cereal (great hot or cold)
  • Make oatmeal with fat-free or low-fat milk and add fresh, frozen, dried or canned fruit
  • Try grits with light coconut milk with canned mango or peaches in light syrup or its own juices
  • Make a fruit smoothie with low-fat milk, fruit, and peanut butter
  • For a special treat, enjoy a delicious fruit tart

Eating breakfast is a lifelong habit worth teaching your child. It is important to remember that as the parent, you set the example. Even if you are not usually hungry in the morning, or don’t like typical breakfast foods, try a light yet well-balanced breakfast with at least three food groups. The reality is, almost any dish can be eaten for breakfast. So go ahead and serve those leftovers!

By planning ahead and forming good habits, your family will see that eating breakfast is not only quick and easy, but is also a great way to spend time in the kitchen together and set your day off to a strong start.

The University of Minnesota Extension’s Health and Nutrition, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Education program is excited to partner with Way to Grow and has a shared vision for healthier families. Our education provides Minnesota families with tools and strategies to help counter the effects of food insecurity, poverty and obesity. One of the classes we offer is Cooking Matters® Minnesota. This is a six-week series of cooking-based nutrition education program that empowers people to eat healthier and make better use of their food resources. Program graduates report an increase in confidence to prepare healthy meals and excitement over understanding food labels and ways to stretch food dollars. Parents realize that small changes in how their families eat can make big differences in the end. Most importantly more families find making the healthy choice is now a much easier choice.

For more information on the University of Minnesota Extension’s Health and Nutrition, SNAP-Ed program, contact: Evalyn Cabrey, MS, RD, SNAP-Ed Regional Coordinator (Metro), at or 612-624-9942.

This article was written by Sharmyn Phipps, SNAP-Ed Educator
University of Minnesota Extension, Health and Nutrition Programs, SNAP Education

Mayor Hodges Visits Way to Grow as City Launches Talking is Teaching Initiative

Mayor Hodges Visits Way to Grow as City Launches Talking is Teaching Initiative 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Last week, Way to Grow teamed up with Mayor Betsy Hodges and TPT to launch and promote the City’s “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” campaign. The Talking is Teaching campaign is the first initiative to come out of the Mayor’s Cradle to K cabinet, formed in 2014.

Carolyn Smallwood, Executive Director of Way to Grow and chair of the Cradle to K cabinet explains, “The Talking is Teaching campaign is one of the cornerstone projects of Cradle to K. This campaign encourages the community to talk, read, and sing to our children with the goal of building up rich vocabularies.”

Nearly 60% of American children enter kindergarten unprepared. This sobering statistic stems from the fact that by 3 years of age, there is a 30 million word gap between children from the wealthiest and poorest families. This means building rich vocabularies is a vital first step in securing the futures of our young children. Cradle to K is reminding parents the importance of their role in closing the word gap by engaging in simple, everyday interactions with their children. Mayor Hodges notes, “Science has told us clearly that this simple step can help prepare our children for brighter futures.”

By reminding parents of the fact that these seemingly mundane activities are fostering learning and healthy brain development, we can narrow the disparities seen in early childhood literacy that often persist into grade school and beyond.

Way to Grow hosts BrandLab Intern

Way to Grow hosts BrandLab Intern 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Meet Zaq:

Last fall, I had the opportunity to participate in a two week class at my school called The BrandLab. This class was facilitated by an organization that recruits talented young people to be introduced to the world of marketing and advertising. During class, we learned about a program called Helping Us Grow (HUG). HUG helps low income families gain access to diapers, car seats, and other items necessary to raise an infant. We were tasked with putting together a project for them. That project included making posters, filming an advertisement, putting together an event, and a presentation made of posterboard and PowerPoint slides. At the end of it we presented to The actual BrandLab and the program director at HUG. My team did a pretty good job, I think. Everyone in the class did a great job.

At the end of it all we were able to apply for an internship with The BrandLab. I applied with three of my classmates, and then we were interviewed about a week later. I was sick that day, so I was rescheduled for another time. I was really worried that rescheduling would poorly impact my likelihood of being hired. As I waited for their decision, I was sure that I wouldn’t make the cut. But, to my surprise, all four of us were hired on! I was really happy. It was super exciting to have something to do this summer that would positively impact my future. A learning experience like this is something that was granted to only 67 students of 700 who applied, and I am so, so grateful.

During orientation at The BrandLab we had to answer questions about our interests and personalities so that we could be matched with the program or agency that we would do well at. I was assigned to Way to Grow. When I got the email stating where I was assigned I went straight to Way to Grow’s website and read as much as I could to learn about the program. I think what they do, educating young children and their families, preparing kids for school, helping their families live better lives, is wonderful.

I’m really looking forward to interning with Way to Grow this summer. In the two months I’m here, I hope to learn a lot about how nonprofit organizations work, and what it’s like to work in an office environment. During my weekly sessions with The BrandLab, I want to learn more about how to carry myself professionally and how to make a good impression. This summer is all about building a network of people that could help me later in life and experiencing new things. It’s also about learning, which I plan to do a lot of. Education is super important and I want to take every chance I can to learn something new. I think that might be why I was placed here. I really look forward to spending the rest of my summer with Way to Grow.

The BrandLab is on a mission to change the face and voice of the marketing industry by introducing, guiding and preparing students for careers in marketing and advertising. They believe in a future industry that reaches new heights through the creativity of people of any race or socioeconomic background – and so do we. Zaq will be interning with the Way to Grow communications team over the next two months. Please join us in welcoming them to the team!

Parent Education – Our Message to Parents

Parent Education – Our Message to Parents 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Way to Grow Partners with Local Newspaper in Launching Parent Education Section

Way to Grow is happy to announce our partnership with the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. As a contributing partner to the new parent education section, Message to Parents, we will focus on the most critical issues affecting the communities we serve. In order for parents to fulfill their roles as their children’s first teachers, they need access to the tools and information critical to their children’s success. Each month, we will be sharing parent education tips to encourage parents by saying we can do this; we can give our children better opportunities to succeed in school and life – and here’s how.

The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder was a natural partner for Way to Grow in this endeavor. The hearts of our organizations are united by the same goal: to empower the second generation by working with and through their parents. Way to Grow has been working with parents in isolated communities for over 26 years. Through this project, we aim to cast our knowledge of early childhood and parent education far and wide, sharing the best information and advice we can to help each family rediscover and achieve their highest potential.

Read more about this exciting project and hear from our fellow contributing partners. And, don’t miss our first Message to Parents: Choosing the Right School for Your Child.

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