Community Partners

Celebrating Social Innovation Month – Our Initial Findings

Celebrating Social Innovation Month – Our Initial Findings 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

In 2013, Way to Grow was selected as one of six (SIF) fund recipients in the Twin Cities, which included a $100,000 investment from the Social Innovation Fund to expand our Great by Eight home visiting model. The goal of this project is to determine if the Way to Grow Great by Eight program is a scalable, replicable model for early childhood and parent success.

The initial findings* provided credible evidence that our programming is achieving our stated impact, improving parent engagement, school readiness and academic proficiency among participating students.

Initial Findings SIF Evaluation – Parent Engagement

  • Frequency of home visits was a significant positive predictor of higher nurturing, discipline, support of child development and child care scores.
  • Frequency of home visits, both early learning and elementary, was a significant predictor of parent-teacher conference attendance.
  • Frequency of elementary home visits was a significant predictor of parents attending a school event or volunteering.

Initial Findings SIF Evaluation – Academics

  • Home visits the summer before kindergarten were a significant positive predictor of higher Individual Growth and Development Indicators (IGDI); when frequency of home visits increase, indicator scores increase.
  • Program participation duration is significantly associated with higher DIBELS scores.
  • Non English speaking children scored significantly higher on DIBELs compared to children with English as home language.
  • Highest gains were seen in mathematics (16.37 points) based on MAP scores, fall to spring.
  • The second highest gain was seen in informational text (reading) based on MAP scores.
  • The third highest gain was seen in the vocabulary scale based on MAP scores.


*Way to Grow received its initial evaluation findings in 2015, completed by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement through the guidance of the Corporation for National and Community Service, made possible through a grant from the Greater Twin Cities United Way in partnership with Generation Next and the STRIVE Network.

Social%20Innovation%20Fund%20LOGO%202015%20FINAL_0Great by Eight is supported by subgrant from the Social Innovation Fund (SIF), a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service. The Social Innovation Fund combines public and private resources to grow the impact of innovative, community-based solutions that have compelling evidence of improving the lives of people in low-income communities throughout the United States.

Second Grade Success

Second Grade Success 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Way To Grow1230Since Kindergarten, Shamsa, Asma’s Way to Grow Family Educator, has been working with Asma on picture naming and vocabulary. A native Somali speaker, Asma was also enrolled in an Arabic program which initially, made English Language Learning even more challenging. Shamsa persisted, encouraging mom to attend ELL classes, to read daily with her children, and to set aside time to complete homework each night. Now a second grader at Pillsbury Elementary School, Asma scored 100% on both picture naming and spelling sight words this fall!

Asma’s family as a whole places a prominent value on education. With hopes of obtaining a degree in the field of Child Development, Asma’s mother is now taking college English classes at MCTC. These classes are helping mom learn to read and write at a collegiate level. In the meantime, Mom recognizes what an asset her increased English language skills are to teaching her children. With her own English Language Learning, mom has become more deeply engaged and involved with Asma’s education. She has become a powerful advocate for her children, and perhaps more importantly, a role model.

Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi Foundation for Children Awards More Than $1.3 Million in Grants

Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi Foundation for Children Awards More Than $1.3 Million in Grants 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Minnesota Students’ Scores Mixed on Nation’s Report Card

Minnesota Students’ Scores Mixed on Nation’s Report Card 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Living United – Action Day 2015 provides 500 backpacks for Way to Grow children

Living United – Action Day 2015 provides 500 backpacks for Way to Grow children 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Throughout the Twin Cities, volunteers gathered over lunch hour, taking part in the fifth annual Greater Twin Cities United Way Action Day with the goal of helping students (pre-K to college-bound) get on the right track to school success. Volunteers – including Way to Grow families and staff – joined in the fun, assembling back-to-school kits for children in need.

The event concluded with R.T. Rybak, Executive Director of Generation Next, sharing comments with the group. R.T. emphasized the importance of supporting our children in school, cheering them on every step of the way. With a huge round of applause, the crowd joined in an encouraging send off of the future leaders of Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Throughout 2015, Greater Twin Cities United Way is celebrating 100 years of making a positive impact in the Twin Cities by setting a community goal of activating 100,000 volunteers in 2015. Visit their page for more ways you can be part of the #Next100.

Way to Grow would like to send a special thanks to SPS Commerce and Accenture for hosting backpack and school supply drives.

And, be sure to check out our fun event photos here!


Now Recruiting Minnesota Reading Corps Literacy Tutors

Now Recruiting Minnesota Reading Corps Literacy Tutors 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Would you love to help children grow their reading skills, succeed in school and get extra support? If your answer is yes, you can be trained to serve as a tutor with Minnesota Reading Corps at Way to Grow. Whether you want to explore an educational career, reenter the workforce, or give back to your community, you can succeed as a tutor. Last year, Minnesota Reading Corps provided direct services to over 30,000 children in more than 700 schools across the state.

As a Literacy Tutor, you’ll use strategies that help students believe in themselves and succeed. Positions available include preschool tutors at Way to Grow Preschool Pals and P.A.L.S. Offered four days per week, Preschool Pals is our NAEYC accredited and MN Parent Aware 4-star rated center-based preschool program designed to complement home visits for Way to Grow families. Preschool P.A.L.S. invites the parent into the preschool classroom for parent-child learning time. Both locations offer part time options, and tutors typically serve most of their hours during the regular school day.

In addition to extensive training, tutors will receive on-site support from specially trained school mentors. Tutors come from many backgrounds and include recent high school and college grads, career changers, stay-at-home parents, and retirees. Tutors may earn a living allowance, educational award, federal student loan forbearance, and other benefits, and have the chance to make a real difference in the life of a child.

To apply or learn more about the research based programs, position qualifications, and benefits, visit Questions? Contact or 866-859-2825.

Hey Twins Fans!

Hey Twins Fans! 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Ever dreamed of throwing out the first pitch at a Twins game? Here’s your chance!

United Way is fielding an all-star team of 100,000 volunteers this year to strike out poverty in this community. Get off the bench and volunteer!

Sign up online between July 7-16 and you could win the chance to throw out the first pitch at the Twins-Yankees game on Sunday, July 26, as well as tickets for the game for you and three of your devoted fans.

Other great prizes for game day are a set of four seats in the Thomson Reuters Champions Club and 10 pair of tickets for other seats. There will be tons of fun Twins prize gear at the game for those who commit to volunteering on their mobile devices. There are a lot of winners in this game!

Volunteering through United Way is a winning experience, too. It’s fun, a great way to make personal and professional connections, and it increases your visibility and that of your organization. You can pick the projects that appeal to you and volunteering always hits a home run for our community.

Take a step toward the pitcher’s mound at Target Field: Commit to volunteering today!

Social Impact Project Launches in Minneapolis

Social Impact Project Launches in Minneapolis 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

A group of next generation philanthropists has come together to launch The New Impact Fund, a social impact project. We are excited to announce that Way to Grow is one of four family and childhood-focused programs included in the first round of social investments.

“At Way to Grow, we’ve seen the lasting impact of developing a foundation of learning in the home for families in poverty. From a single parent sharing her excitement that her daughter has earned a full scholarship to college because of a strong start with Way to Grow, to a preschool-age boy who formerly lagged far behind his peers now entering school scoring 75 points higher in literacy. A strong start has a strong return for individual families and our communities,” said Carolyn Smallwood, Way to Grow Executive Director.

The New Impact Fund support will help support the programming that empowers our next generation of leaders and fuels the promise of stronger, healthier communities for us all.


Minneapolis – The next generation of Minnesota philanthropists is coming together around a new social impact project called The New Impact Fund. The New Impact Fund, which is just completing its first cohort, is rallying next generation leaders to leverage their philanthropy to take action. The New Impact Fund announces over $410,000 in investment for their first effort. Alicia Phillips of Redwood Philanthropic Advisors and Jason Blumenthal of the Fulcrum Group are launching the effort.

The first cohort of investments is focused on family and childhood programs in Minneapolis. The Fund uses all the tools of capitalism: business investments, loans, and grants to drive change in Minneapolis. We believe that ending cycles of poverty in Minneapolis is possible by training the next generation of philanthropic leaders and innovators to apply analytics and new points of leverage to pervasive social problems.

“This is only possible through the development of new critical leaders, new ways of thinking, and new ways of using capital,” Phillips said. “The New Impact Fund provides the members of the cohort with the skills to effectively evaluate opportunities in terms of innovation, results, and effectiveness in addressing the issues of poverty. We believe the four

programs in which we are investing will create strong, positive change in the lives of Minneapolis families and children in poverty,” said Susan Shank, CFA and Chair of the first co-hort.

The investments were selected for the following programs:

Way To Grow

Way to Grow provides evidence-based programming, delivered primarily through home visits, that measurably improves the lives of families by stabilizing the home and setting a foundation for a culture of learning in the households of at-risk families in Minneapolis.

Baby Space

Baby Space works to strengthen, deepen, and broaden its family engagement program in order to achieve even better academic and social emotional outcomes for the American Indian families and children they serve.

Northside Achievement Zone

Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ) uses evidence-based strategies to support North Minneapolis parents–the vast majority of whom are people of color living at or below the poverty line–in building the skills, knowledge, and confidence they need to support their children’s growth, development and school success from birth to graduation and beyond.

Joyce Preschool

Joyce Preschool is supported for programming that empowers low-income families to support the social-emotional and cognitive development of their children. The school’s comprehensive and responsive parent support programming is a major factor in Joyce Preschool’s success in achieving a100% kindergarten readiness rate for its graduates.

About The New Impact Fund

The New Impact Fund is a group of next generation philanthropic investors committed to creating wealth through business investments, loans and grants that can add jobs to the economy, increase employment and bring upward mobility to the poorest neighborhoods within Minneapolis.


Screening at Three

Screening at Three 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Way to Grow staff were happy to attend Training of Trainers, a new course developed through a partnership between Generation Next, Minnesota Departments of Education and Health, and several community partners. This training is part of Generation Next’s Kindergarten Readiness Action Plan, which includes an initial strategy of working through community partners in Saint Paul and Minneapolis to ensure every 3 year old completes Early Childhood Screening and gets connected to opportunities to support school readiness.

Early childhood screening is critical to identifying developmental delays, learning disabilities, speech disorders, and many other cognitive and/or physical impairments that may affect a child’s ability to learn.  The earlier we are able to recognize these factors, the earlier we can work with the family in overcoming such hurdles.  We know that families are more likely to get their three year olds screened and follow-through to resources and opportunities if they are supported by the “trusted connectors” in their lives.  This Early Childhood Screening training is designed to give those connectors the information they need to effectively refer families to Early Childhood Screening and support them in follow-through to resources.

We’re pleased to be part of the very first cadre of trainers who will offer the Early Childhood Screening training to all types of connectors!

2015 Children and Youth Issues Briefing Recap

2015 Children and Youth Issues Briefing Recap 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

This morning, nearly 1,000 influential advocates gathered at the 2015 Children & Youth Issues Briefing in Saint Paul.

The event kicked off with an address from Governor Mark Dayton who announced that his upcoming budget proposal (reviewed next Tuesday) will allocate $372 million to “children and education.”  Acknowledging that many Minnesota families have critical unmet needs, Gov. Dayton noted that often times, what 4-5 year olds have already endured is what is truly driving inequality.

Recognizing and emphasizing the holistic approach necessary to improve education outcomes, topics of discussion included:

  • Prenatal care and health education
  • Access to quality early education
  • Homelessness and socio-economic challenges
  • Stabilizing Minnesota families
  • Improving and ensuring the quality of our teachers
  • Increasing support for targeted home visiting
  • Equality in after-school programming
  • Affordability of higher education

Today is a day to be reminded that we all have the power to be the agents of change in our community.  The issues affecting the lives of our youth are not only being heard, but are being discussed and we invite you to join the conversation! Write, call, tweet or post to your legislator today and let them know that the issues above affecting Minnesota’s youngest citizens, matter to you!

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