Community Partners

Our Executive Director in Action

Our Executive Director in Action 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

The Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi (RKMC) Foundation for Children has announced the appointment of Carolyn Smallwood to its board of directors.

Carolyn Smallwood is entering her 10th year as executive director of Way to Grow, Inc., an early education and elementary organization that serves over 2,000 people each year. Prior to Way to Grow, she served as vice president for sales and marketing at Twin Cities RISE! She also served as the executive director of the Minnesota Minority Supplier Development Council.

Before entering the nonprofit field, Smallwood was the director of supplier diversity with ADC, The Broadband Company, and held a variety of senior positions with U.S. Bancorp.

She earned her BA degree in marketing and finance from the University of St. Thomas and completed Harvard’s Executive Programs for Nonprofits. Smallwood has a passion for work in diverse communities, a solid background in marketing, strong executive experience, an inclusive leadership style and a dynamic presence.

Smallwood currently sits on Governor Mark Dayton’s Early Learning Council and on the board of trustees for the College of Saint Benedict and the MacPhail Center for Music. Most recently, she was selected by Mayor Betsy Hodges to co-chair the Cradle to K Cabinet, designed to eliminate disparities for children from prenatal to three years old in the City of Minneapolis.

She also serves on the African American Leadership Forum, MinneMinds Advisory Committee, Promise Neighborhood Solution Action Group, and the FATHER Project Committee.

“Carolyn understands the critical importance of education in building a strong future for our children, and she has developed an array of skills in a career spent advocating for women and the underserved,” said Michael Ciresi, board chair of the RKMC Foundation for Children. “We’re honored to welcome her to the Foundation’s board.”

Information provided by the Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi Foundation for Children. To learn more, visit rkmcfoundationforchildren.org.

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Join us in the Great Minnesota GIVE Together

Join us in the Great Minnesota GIVE Together 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

The season of giving is upon us!  In honor of our 25 years of success, our goal for this year’s Give to the Max Day is to have 25 supporters donate $25 or more.  Can you help us meet and exceed that goal?  We know you can! 

Give to the Max Day has become a Minnesota ritual,” says Dana Nelson, executive director of GiveMN. “For 24 hours, thousands of organizations and individuals rally to support amazing and important causes in Minnesota to make our state a great place for everyone. What’s not to love about that?”

Please schedule your gift today by filling out the form below, then share with your networks!  Together, we will make a difference.   #GTMD14

Mayor Hodges, Cradle to K Cabinet Announce Cabinet Will Issue Report with 2015 Recommendations

Mayor Hodges, Cradle to K Cabinet Announce Cabinet Will Issue Report with 2015 Recommendations 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

October 10, 2014 (MINNEAPOLIS) — Mayor Betsy Hodges announced Thursday that her Cradle to K Cabinet is working on a year-end report which will outline policy, legislative, and collaboration recommendations for 2015. The Cabinet has been meeting since spring, when Mayor Hodges convened the full first meeting of the cabinet.

“The members of my Cradle to K Cabinet have shown exceptional dedication to our goal of closing the achievement gap in the city’s education system by eliminating disparities for children from prenatal to three years old,” said Mayor Hodges. “The discussions, collaboration, and work happening at this table is focused on our opportunity to create equity with our kids – I’m heartened by the energy of the Cabinet. I feel confident our year-end report will be comprehensive and forward-thinking. I look forward to that report guiding the Cradle to K Cabinet’s work in 2015.”

Since the first meeting, the cabinet has identified three objectives members are focused on. The cabinet has organized members into committees, each one focused on a different objective.

“I’m pleased we’ve been able to focus in on three concrete goals,” said Carolyn Smallwood, Co-Chair of the Cradle to K Cabinet and Executive Director of Way to Grow. “Those goals are that all children receive a healthy start rich with early experience to prepare them for successful early education and literacy; all children will be stably housed; and all children will have continuous access to high quality child development programming.”

“Each committee is looking at potential policy or legislative recommendations for each of these objectives,” said Peggy Flanagan, Co-Chair of the Cradle to K Cabinet and Executive Director of the Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota. “Some of those recommendations may be small changes at the city level, and some may require larger state legislation to achieve our goal. In January, we’ll begin working on those recommendations.”

The Cradle to K Cabinet will make its report public in early January. Flanagan and Smallwood joined Mayor Hodges Thursday at a media briefing to discuss the cabinet’s work. They were joined by: Gretchen Musicant, Chair of the Committee focused on Early Experiences; Mikkel Beckmen, Chair of the Committee focused on Stable Housing; Aaron Sojourner, member of the Committee focused on Continuous Access; and Richelle Hart-Peeler, a parent representative on the cabinet.

Rising to the Challenge

Rising to the Challenge 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Could you feed four on just $10 and one in store coupon?  Sound like a piece of cake?  How about including at least one item from each of the five food groups with the same amount?

Welcome to the $10 grocery challenge!

Our first group of parents to participate in the challenge successfully accomplished just that last night with the help of Family Educator, Collette.  Collette is one of six Family Educators who will lead at least one grocery tour this month with the goal of increasing access to and awareness of healthy living.  “By starting with parent education, we’ll see a definite trickle-down effect.  Not only can those parents lead and inform others in their own families and in their communities, but their children pick up on those healthy habits as well.  We want our kids to be healthy.  When they don’t have healthy diets, they really aren’t ready for school,” Collette explains.

The grocery tours are not only a part of Way to Grow’s holistic approach, but are completed in conjunction with our six-week Cooking Matters program led in partnership with the University of Minnesota Extension Services and funded by Cargill.  Another Cooking Matters series kicks off tomorrow.  We’re excited to give more parents and families the opportunity to learn to cook healthy meals together, one plate at a time.

Social Innovation Fund

Social Innovation Fund 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Last year, Twin Cities Strive in partnership with Greater Twin Cities United Way rolled out their Social Innovation Fund grant, dedicated to  focus on improving kindergarten readiness, 3rd-grade reading proficiency, 9th-grade readiness for upper-level math, four-year high school graduation, and post-secondary enrollment among low-income students in the St. Paul/Minneapolis area.

Twin Cities Strive in partnership with Greater Twin Cities United Way has begun to transform the landscape of strategies aimed at improving educational outcomes for low-income Twin Cities children and youth at risk for academic failure through their local STRIVE Alliance collective impact initiative. With their Social Innovation Fund (SIF) grant they have developed a strong portfolio of replicable, evidence-based programs designed to improve kindergarten readiness, third grade reading proficiency, ninth grade readiness for upper-level math, four-year graduation rates, and college enrollment rates for between 1,500 and 2,000 low-income youth each year.

Way to Grow has been honored to be included as one of six 2013 grantees committed to closing the achievement gap throughout the Twin Cities.  We’re incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have expanded our reach to over 150 additional low-income families with children ages 3 to grade 3!  We’ll receive our program evaluation this fall, where we expect to see improved school readiness and increased academic proficiency of participating children.

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