Event Recap

 Use this for short write-ups about events and to share photos, highlights, etc from the event

It’s time to Howl!

It’s time to Howl! 850 601 Maren Nelson

Marquee Night at the Minnesota Timberwolves

On Monday, April 1, 200 of our kids and parents descended on Target Center as the Timberwolves took on the Portland Trailblazers. A special shout-out to the Wolves’ all-star point guard Jeff Teague, who selected Way to Grow to be the featured nonprofit for its Marquee Night program—and to the Timberwolves for welcoming our families throughout the season with its Tickets for Kids program!

This season, hundreds of Way to Grow participants were able to attend over 15 home games thanks to the generosity of Jeff Teague and the Timberwolves. For many Way to Grow families, a professional basketball game is a special treat that they cannot otherwise enjoy without the support of the FastBreak Foundation, the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Minnesota Lynx. We’ve had a blast watching our Wolves this year and are thrilled we were able to share these experiences with our families!

Thank you, Shine Supporters!

Thank you, Shine Supporters! 1251 834 Ken Story

This past Saturday night, something magical happened.

Our supporters, sponsors, table hosts, staff, and board of directors all helped make our 2018 Shine Celebration such a memorable experience.  Whether it was singing, testimonies, or our new Way to Grow videos we debuted – it all came together in the name of early education and the power of change it has in our community.

Thanks to our generous sponsors and supporters, we were able to raise over $425,000 at this year’s Shine Celebration!

We are inspired and so grateful for all the love and support for our mission that ensures that the most vulnerable populations in our community will see no barrier to early education.

As we look to the future where so many will be touched by this level of support, we want to take another second in this moment and say thank you again to all that got us here:   We could not have done it without you.

October 26, 2019

Save the date for our 2019 Shine Celebration and join us to mark our 30-year history of ensuring all children are born healthy, stay healthy, and are prepared for school . . . and life!

A Snapshot of our Preschools this Year

A Snapshot of our Preschools this Year 2560 1707 Ken Story

From a pajama- piñata party to food bazaars, from balloon parties to buildings, our preschoolers have expanded their minds and horizons all while exploring their imaginations. While these moments are now memories, and some of these children are graduates, we wanted to take a trip down memory lane and share with you a few wonderful moments from our two preschools this past school year.

Music with Ms. Nora from MacPhail (North Preschool)

Making up a session that was missed because of weather, Ms. Nora came in with a purpose. Our teachers had informed her that the class was going to the zoo later in the week, so she came prepared with songs about animals and going to the zoo. The children played with different animal toys that she brought, sang different animal songs, and moved around the classroom pretending to be animals. To round out their last session with her for the school year, they played with sand blocks, drums, and maracas.

Music is an important and wonderful part of education and we are so grateful for Ms. Nora and our friends at MacPhail Center for Music!

Advocacy Day at the Minnesota State Capitol

Turning momentum into action, our preschool children accompanied their parents and Way to Grow staff to the Minnesota State Capitol to rally for early education. After boarding the bus and singing songs, a flood of yellow Way to Grow t-shirts entered the rotunda, where parents heard from education professionals and advocates while the children got to sing songs and were read to by legislators. Way to Grow Parent Champion Mina Thao even took the stage to share her story on how access to early education programs like Way to Grow have positively impacted her and her children’s lives.

“Witnessing their parents being active on any front leaves a positive impression on a child,” said Way to Grow Program Director Megan McLaughlin. “It was a great opportunity for the families to learn and experience the State Capitol in very different ways.”

Our families were then taken downstairs, where they were able to enjoy a snack, do some activities, and experience one-on-one time with legislators. We knew it was a long day because on the bus ride back to the preschools, a few of the children fell asleep. Who knew advocacy could be so tiring!

“Building” a Foundation of Learning (South Preschool)

It is always amazing to see the learning epiphany in children when they discover that just about everything they learn can be a career. For example, something as simple as building blocks can lead into a conversation about buildings and structures.

The South Preschool classroom was transformed into a cardboard workshop with boxes and supplies, and our children went from curious to becoming hands-on engineers! They were able to focus their skills individually and also cooperatively working with others to create some incredible structures.

This is a great reminder to always look for opportunities to learn in places you wouldn’t expect them and take action on them!

THE Trip to the Como Zoo

Even though the first zoo in the world was established in 1500 B.C. in Egypt, zoos remain wildly popular in the world and a driving force behind that are children’s interest, curiosity, and love for animals. Our Way to Grow children are no different, and after weeks of learning, singing, and pretending to be animals, there was no better way to finish the school year than a trip to the Como Zoo. We also invited their parents because you are never too old to go to the zoo!

Even though some parts of the zoo were under construction, the children were able to see all the animals they wanted to see on a list they made prior to their visit. From reptiles to mammals, the children got to experience and learn about the animal kingdom first hand. They also got to snack on animal crackers, which was intentionally planned by the teachers.

A huge thank you to our friends at the Como Zoo for hosting our families – and for everything they do for the Twin Cities community!

Sharing and reflecting on all these wonderful memories already has us looking forward to the next school year, we cannot wait to share with you what is to come!

Celebrating our Graduates!

Celebrating our Graduates! 960 640 Ken Story

It was a day full of pride and joy on July 15th as Way to Grow held our 2018 Early Learning and Third Grade Graduation at Urban Ventures in South Minneapolis.

30 staff members, 12 community volunteers, and hundreds of family members celebrated our graduates through a late-afternoon program that involved an activity and social hour, the graduation ceremony itself, and refreshments to close out the day. In all, we had 98 Early Learner Graduates and 57 Great by Eight (3rd Grade Graduates).

At Way to Grow, we often hear that “It takes a village,” so we would like to take this opportunity to thank ours. Thank you to all the Way to Grow parents and guardians for your work and commitment to your child’s education.  To our Way to Grow Family Educators and staff, thank you for all your hard work, enthusiasm, and dedication.  Finally, thank you to all our volunteers, the Way to Grow Board of Directors, and our funders for your continued support.  Finally, a special thank you to Books to Grow and Minneapolis City of Lakes Rotary Club for providing books to our graduates.

You can find photos from the graduation event by following the links below:

2018 Graduation

2018 Graduation – Family Photo Booth 

2018 Graduation – Graduate Photo Booth

Transforming Lives Together: Our Spring Luncheon

Transforming Lives Together: Our Spring Luncheon 600 315 Susan Cossette

On Wednesday, May 2, Way to Grow welcomed nearly 200 guests to our annual Spring Luncheon at the Walker Art Center.

As our keynote speaker Dr. Anne Gearity noted during her remarks, social support is a key factor for children and parents living with adverse experiences.  By listening and providing guidance and encouragement, we can all play a role in giving them options, helping them see things differently, and ultimately providing them with new chances and hope for a new life.

We are most grateful to our sponsors:  Monica Little and Mark Abeln, US Bank, Dave and Barb Henderson, Janis Clay, and Laurie Eibensteiner.

Thanks also to our table hosts and generous donors . . . Together we are transforming lives!

What is it about eating that brings us closer?

What is it about eating that brings us closer? 960 640 Ken Story

These past two months, our preschools and our families have been talking about food. The children’s interest in food started when they read Bunny Cakes, The Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza, and then a conversation about how they all ate rice but in different ways. They were perplexed, they were hooked, and we loved every minute of it.

The children came up with things that they wanted to know and learn about food such as  “What is healthy food?” and “What are the foods that are good or bad for our bodies?” The preschool pretend centers were transformed into a grocery store where the children could buy and sell food, and they filled their libraries with fiction and non-fiction books about food.

These activities all built up toward both preschools throwing their own international food bazaar day, where parents and staff were invited in to bring in cuisines from their cultures to share. So, surrounded by decorations made by the children, our Way to Grow families “broke bread” and had an amazing time together.

So again, what is it about eating that brings us closer? We learned that food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate.

Find pictures of both events here –


My Voice Matters: Minneapolis Board of Education

My Voice Matters: Minneapolis Board of Education 2560 1920 Ken Story

Recent research shows that boards of education have a significant impact on student achievement in their districts and that across the nation there is a low percentage of parents – especially  in vulnerable communities – that are not engaged with their local boards of education.

Through Way to Grow’s “My Voice Matters” initiative, this past week our parents learned not only the ins and outs of the Minneapolis Board of Education but also who each director was, the history of education in Minneapolis, and how each of them could be proactive in local education policy-making.

Local boards of education (also known as school boards, school committees, school directors, or trustees) are elected—or occasionally appointed—to be leaders and champions for public education in their communities and states.

The most important responsibility of the board of education is to work with their communities to improve student achievement in their local public schools. Boards of education derive their power and authority from the state. In compliance with state and federal laws, school boards establish policies and regulations by which their local schools are governed.

Last Friday, Way to Grow had 13 parents attend a training that was led by a member of the board, Director Jenny Arneson.  While Director Arneson did encourage involvement, she did explain the lines and differences between the board and the schools. She explained that if a parent actually has a direct issue with their child’s education, they actually should call their child’s school and that the board of education is more of a “bigger picture and governance entity.”

Putting what they learned into action, 12 Way to Grow parents along with 5 staff members attended the Minneapolis Board of Education meeting last night where various issues were discussed and voted on. “It is not only important for us to teach them every aspect when it comes to local education and policy-making, but also be there with them in case they have any questions,” said Way to Grow Program Director Megan McLaughlin. “It is really up to them to take it from there to advocate for their child’s education as a concerned parent/private citizen.”

My Voice Matters is a parent engagement and advocacy initiative with the goal of involving parents in advocacy and empowering them to make the right choices for their children. Programming includes Parent Voices listening sessions, parent trainings, and advocacy events throughout the year.

Shine Celebration recap

Shine Celebration recap 1800 1200 Lisa Bryant

Thank you!  Our 2017 Shine Celebration: Blessings in Disguise, held on Friday, October 27 was an extraordinary evening of community and generosity!  Over 400 guests came out to The Depot in Minneapolis to celebrate the work of Way to Grow and empowering parents to be their children’s primary educator.  Together with sponsors, table hosts and board members, our guests gave $490,000 to support the mission of Way to Grow – an all-time high!  Words can hardly express our gratitude for this tremendous show of support.

Highlights of the evening included a rousing keynote presentation by Dr. Arthur Rolnick on the power of early childhood education, a moving personal story of triumph from a Way to Grow parent, and a heartfelt reflection on generosity from event co-chairs Julie and Doug Baker, Jr.  Remarks from Way to Grow alumni, an exceptional collection of silent and live auction items and experiences, the soulful song-stylings of master of ceremonies T. Mychael Rambo, and festive music by Salsa del Soul helped bring the Shine Celebration to its soaring conclusion.

Your commitment makes it possible for us to empower parents and ensure every child has a chance to succeed. Because of you, we are able to provide more families with our home visiting services, high-quality early childhood and health education, elementary programming and connections to family resources.  Thank you for sharing your blessings so generously!

Way to Grow Spring Luncheon Recap

Way to Grow Spring Luncheon Recap 5000 2638 Ivy Marsnik

Dr. Mary Dana Hinton, President of the College of St. Benedict delivered a keynote address focusing on building pathways to hope, to opportunity, and ultimately, to success.

Dr. Hinton also stressed the importance of starting early.

That gap follows many children into elementary school where by first grade, poor children are already, on average, a half grade behind their wealthier peers. Dr. Hinton’s keynote highlighted the importance of the work of organizations like Way to Grow in challenging and reconstructing the many systematic pipelines and pathways of disenfranchisement.

At the Luncheon, we also heard from Shania, a current student at the University of Northwestern and Way to Grow alum. Shania illustrated the importance of starting with hope and following through with hard work and dedication. “My brother went through the program as a young child and he also graduated from it. It was the first time my mom saw one of her kids in a cap and gown and she always tells me how much she will remember that day. And how that day has given her hope to one day see her children in caps and gowns as college graduates. And here I am years later as a freshman at the University of Northwestern two weeks away from finishing my freshman year. So, Mom, thank you for making that phone call to Way to Grow.”

Thank you to our wonderful speakers and to everyone who attended our Spring Luncheon. Together, we are building pathways to greater hope, opportunity, and success for Minneapolis families.


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!


    Your Name (required)




    Your Email (required)


    Preferred contact method:

    Available days:

    Time of day available:

    Services interested in:
    preschoolspecial projectsteen parentsadministrativeeventsother

    Opportunity interested in:

    Language(s) Spoken besides English:

    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: