Congrats, Third Graders!https://waytogrow.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/352542181_636337428518860_5024938421488048910_n.jpeg13662048Way to GrowWay to Growhttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/09f1d2145e67b2693c587ac4095c60a0?s=96&d=blank&r=g
Congrats, Third Graders!
This summer, we gathered together at North Mississippi Regional Park to celebrate our 3rd grade graduates!
At Way to Grow, we work with families from before birth to third grade. Graduation isn’t a goodbye, but a “see ya later!” to our fantastic 8-year-olds. We celebrated with a picnic lunch, plenty of sweet treats, jumbo yard games, and heartwarming words from our Family Educators.
Celebrating together with our families is always a reminder of the hope, joy, and laughter that lives in our community every single day. To our third grade graduates… we can’t wait to see all of the amazing things you achieve!
With a special love of painting pictures and reciting pages from her favorite book, Chrysanthemum, Destiny is bright, talented, and determined to be a leader. Her mom, Sharla, laughs: “Sometimes I call her auntie,” she says, “because she has an older soul.”
Destiny’s journey with Way to Grow began when she was just two years old, pointing out the Way to Grow Preschool Pals bus each time it drove past her Minneapolis home. After a bit of research, Sharla and Destiny began attending Play to Grow groups with other Way to Grow families.
“Both Destiny and Sharla would attend nearly every week,” remembers Mr. Tony, Destiny and Sharla’s Family Educator. “Over time, Destiny became more confident in herself and started to join in small group activities.”
When Destiny graduated from Way to Grow’s Preschool Pals in 2022, she was ready to start her next big adventure. Adjusting to kindergarten at a brand new school was difficult at first, but Mr. Tony was there to offer support and answer questions for every step of the process.
Sharla explains that Tony is always checking in with her family to offer resources and support: “It’s never overwhelming,” says Sharla. “He’s always warm – it’s comfortable, genuine support.”
These days, Destiny is excelling in her studies at KIPP Academy. When Destiny isn’t in school, she’s probably playing with her turtles, Bobby and Steve, having snacks at the YMCA, or leapfrogging across your local library. When she grows up, Destiny wants to be an artist—and, with determination like hers, anything is possible!
The Present and Future of Way to Grow’s Impacthttps://waytogrow.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Fadumo1-03.png34153293Chelsea DeLongChelsea DeLonghttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/153412534955f292042f601c79046743?s=96&d=blank&r=g
Fadumo and Emmanuel’s Story
For over 30 years, Way to Grow has worked with families in the Twin Cities, providing high-impact, early childhood and elementary education to help children and families succeed in school and life. Way to Grow provides parents and caregivers the tools they need to be their child’s #1 teacher, encouraging parents and children to advocate for themselves throughout their educational journey.
Way to Grow’s uniquely customized home visiting program addresses education inequity in the Twin Cities and surrounding communities by supporting early learners in the present and putting families on the path to success—from third grade graduation and beyond.
On Friday, October 14th at our Shine Celebration Gala, we heard about the longevity of Way to Grow’s impact from our two special guests, Emmanuel and Fadumo.
Emmanuel, a current Way to Grow first grader, has been working hard with his Family Educator Amina since 2020. When they first met, Emmanuel hid under the table! But with persistence and hard work, Emmanuel grew to trust Anima and learned the alphabet one letter at a time. After completing his kindergarten-readiness assessment, he tested perfectly… and skipped kindergarten, going right into the first grade!
Taking the stage in a room of a crowd of over 360 people, Emmanuel read the following poignant verses from Amanda Gorman’s children’s book, “Change Sings”:
I can hear change humming
In its loudest, proudest song
I don’t fear change coming,
And so I sing along.
Change sings where? There! Inside of me.
Because I am the change I want to see.
As I grow, it grows like seeds.
I am just what the world needs
Emmanuel’s story and progress shows what we know: Way to Grow’s program works on children and has immediate benefits to the family, child, and the community.
Next to the stage was Fadumo, Way to Grow alum and recent Hamline University graduate. Shany, her Family Educator, knew Fadumo since before she was born! Graduating from our program in 2005, Fadumo told an enraptured audience how Shany’s presence in her life at such a young age has impacted her to this very day.
Though her time with Way to Grow was nearly two decades ago, the impact on her education has remained through the present. Benefiting from one-on-one learning with Shany, Fadumo excelled all throughout her entire academic career—from elementary school all the way to Hamline University— and credits her time with Shany as a reminder of how she can succeed.
In her own words: “Today, I aspire to become a Physician Associate that specializes in pediatric care. And I’m PROUD to say that I have been accepted into the Augsburg University Physician Associate graduate program! Someday I hope to have the opportunity to work with kids and have an impact on their life like Shany did with me.”
Emmanuel and Fadumo are just two of MANY individuals that Way to Grow impacts year after year. Through hard work from our families, staff, and supporters, we have seen Way to Grow families succeed: in 2022, we’ve currently worked with over 600 families—and we’re looking forward to connecting with even more children and families before the end of the year!
Once more, another round of applause for Emmanuel, Fadumo, and their continued accomplishments!
Meet Maya and Maki!https://waytogrow.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/WTG-2022-3rdGrade-92-scaled.jpg25601707Chelsea DeLongChelsea DeLonghttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/153412534955f292042f601c79046743?s=96&d=blank&r=g
Way to Grow’s Family Educators know that every family and child is unique, so they customize literacy lessons and tailor academic curriculum to fit each child’s strengths.
When Eureka heard about Way to Grow, she thought it would be a great fit for her twins, Maya and Maki. Eureka reached out after her twins completed 2nd grade, but had struggled throughout 2020 with distance learning. Maya was reading at a beginning 1st grade level, and Maki, while reading at grade level, lacked reading comprehension.
After working intensively with Amanda, their Family Educator, the twins finished 3rd grade at grade level!
Watch Them Grow
Amanda met Maya and Maki and began spending time getting to know their strengths, interests, and subjects they needed to work on to catch up. It was evident that Maya was very creative: she loved to draw, and often created beautiful pictures. When working with Maki, Amanda could see that when he was determined to learn something, he worked very hard to master it.
As twins, it came as no surprise that Maya and Maki were competitive and loved games. Amanda incorporated their individual strengths into literacy games to help improve their skills. Together, they would play “Sight Word Freeze” and “Rhyming Bingo,” and compete to win small, donated prizes as an encouragement for their hard work.
As their reading improved, Amanda worked on having them take turns reading—Maya and Maki were able to complete their first chapter book in the spring.
Amanda also worked with the twins on activities such as counting money, telling time, and reading maps—all to further develop their skills before graduating from Way to Grow.
While both twins were showing noteable improvement, Amanda and Eureka agreed that Maya could use additional support at school while participating in Way to Grow’s tutoring program. Eureka was able to advocate for those services, and Maya finished 3rd grade at grade level with her twin.
Maya and Maki’s success story would not have been possible without the support of their Family Educator, the recognition of their unique tutoring needs, their mother’s tireless advocacy, and the twins’ hard work. Maya and Maki are the real heroes of their story. We know their unique strengths and confidence borne of success will guide them through any challenges they face in life!
Meet Aubrey!https://waytogrow.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/WTG-AnnualReport-22-scaled.jpg25601707Way to GrowWay to Growhttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/09f1d2145e67b2693c587ac4095c60a0?s=96&d=blank&r=g
In a year and half, the confident, go-getter Aubrey went from being a cautious, nervous reader to loving books of every kind. Most importantly, she is now reading at grade level with an infectious smile!
Aubrey’s family educator, Alison, first met Aubrey and her family seven years ago. Through her many accomplishments made alongside Way to Grow, Alison saw Aubrey grow into a bright, happy girl who radiated confidence. But when 2nd grade brought literacy struggles, it was concerning to see how something as simple as a book transformed Aubrey from confident to cautious.
As Aubrey exits Way to Grow after seven years, her smile—and confidence—is bigger than ever.
Culture to Culture Connections
In addition to the usual tools Alison uses to support literacy, including worksheets, writing, games, and “Reading A to Z,” connecting with Aubrey about their Native American heritage also supported Aubrey’s progress. Megan, Aubrey’s mother, truly appreciated connecting through their heritage, sharing, “Aubrey and I really liked it when Alison would bring books about our culture.”
Aubrey attends Anishinabe Academy and was thrilled to bring home projects to show Alison what she had created and learned at school. Connecting Aubrey with her culture was important to Alison, and Alison was happy to help her learn.
Aubrey didn’t say “Goodbye” to Alison when she left. Instead, she said, “Gigawabamin,” which translates to “See you later” in Ojibwe.
As Aubrey finished up 3rd grade, she asked why Alison only visited once a month. The answer was simple: because of the incredible progress she’s made! Monthly visits were enough for Alison to work, connect, and know that Aubrey was ready to move onto the 4th grade, at grade level. These days, Aubrey is working hard on practicing her cursive.
At Way to Grow, we understand that language and cultural connections play a major role in helping children develop reading skills. Alison knows that Aubrey’s excitement and curiosity about reading, education, and her Native American culture, will take her far. While it’s bittersweet to see Aubrey graduate from our program, we won’t say goodbye. It’s a Gigawabamin to Aubrey and her family!
This summer, Way to Grow is partnering with Literacy Minnesota’s Summer Reads program! Literacy Minnesota hires AmeriCorps VISTA members and provides literacy education training to young Summer Reads mentors. Way to Grow provides a supervisor, technology, and supplies! The Summer Reads mentors offer virtual small group reading and writing instruction for children in order to maintain and improve their skills during the summer months. With the help of Way to Grow supervisors, Summer Reads mentors will provide each child with 30 minutes of instruction 2-3 times per week!
Summer Reads is just one exciting piece of Way to Grow’s tutoring initiative. During the school year, Way to Grow partners with Reading Corps: Reading Corps tutors provide virtual individualized reading support for children from Kindergarten through 3rd grade. Way to Grow also works alongside Wooddale Church to provide virtual assistance to individual children with reading homework, and reading for fun! Volunteers are trained by Way to Grow and are paired with a specific child to build a relationship and provide support.
Reading can be so many things: imaginative, exciting, educational, and comforting. We’re so excited to continue joining our community partners to help young learners improve readings skills this summer!
Meeting Challenges This Seasonhttps://waytogrow.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/2020_YearEnd.png80003960Way to GrowWay to Growhttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/09f1d2145e67b2693c587ac4095c60a0?s=96&d=blank&r=g
With the holidays approaching, we are reminded that many families are still in need. In addition to the challenges they face with virtual learning, many families are also dealing with unemployment, food insecurity, and social isolation, all of which have an impact on children’s mental health. A recent study by Save the Children has shown that almost 50% of students in the United States have reported feeling anxious or fearful due to current events.
Way to Grow understands these challenges and we are working hard to address them. Our Family Educators have successfully adopted virtual home visits and creative activities for the families they support, both to continue their education and to provide socialization. This is crucial during a time when children are unable to visit with friends and extended family. In this way, the Family Educator plays several roles – tutor, mentor, and friend!
Our annual Adopt-A-Family gift card drive also looks a little different this year, and we are finding new ways to provide hope and joy to our families this holiday season. In lieu of gifts, our supporters have provided gift cards, allowing the families to purchase winter clothes, books, toys, groceries, and more. Even the smallest gesture can mean the world to a struggling family, and we are so grateful to those who generously contributed to spreading some holiday cheer!
Give the gift of a bright future by donating in honor of someone special!
Children are falling behind: Here’s what we can do.https://waytogrow.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/learning_twitter.png1200600Way to GrowWay to Growhttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/09f1d2145e67b2693c587ac4095c60a0?s=96&d=blank&r=g
by Deedee Stevens-Neal, Director of Education
The early part of 2020 became a great experiment in virtual learning. Experts predict children could have a four to eight month regression in academic skills, and the American Academy of Pediatrics is worried about the social and emotional effects of distance learning. There is further concern with children not having their basic needs met and some may be more at risk of abuse as families experience high levels of stress. Our families are under immense pressure. Here’s what we can do to help.
Staying true to our mission, Way to Grow goes beyond just basic parenting tips to empower families to create a culture of learning in the home. We learned quickly that in the face of unprecedented challenges, we can adapt our current model to provide a deeper level of service. We can provide virtual home visits to families and supply children with books to maintain current reading levels. With the help of our school bus, we can deliver packages of household supplies, books and games, and additional educational materials. We can and will go above and beyond for our families.
Every week brings new challenges. To bolster our work, we are coordinating with other agencies to help our families through this crisis. With the development of tutoring support services, we are finding new ways to reach children. In addition to education support, our staff is specially trained to recognize partner violence, and has learned ways to assist families in this situation. For every challenge, we are working to be part of the solution—one family at a time.
Dear Third Grade Graduate…https://waytogrow.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/third_grade_grad.png33341459Way to GrowWay to Growhttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/09f1d2145e67b2693c587ac4095c60a0?s=96&d=blank&r=g
Dear Third Grad Graduate,
You did it! You graduated from Way to Grow!
We are so proud of you. You have worked hard in school, even when school closed and class was on the computer. You worked hard to stay healthy, eat good food, and get exercise. You worked really hard to get better at reading so you could learn new things. We want you to continue to work hard and be successful!
Even though you will not have a Family Educator to check in with you, we hope you continue to read for school and for fun. Reading can take you a lot of places that you cannot go in real life. Reading can take you under the oceans, to outer space, or to a different time. Reading can help you feel what it would be like to be a different person or from a different place. Reading can even make you laugh out loud!
Congratulations on your success! We are proud of you and your family!
Deedee Stevens-Neal Director of Education, Way to Grow
Creating a Virtual Classroomhttps://waytogrow.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/classroom_twitter.png1200600Way to GrowWay to Growhttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/09f1d2145e67b2693c587ac4095c60a0?s=96&d=blank&r=g
By Deedee Stevens-Neal, Director of Education
Spring is definitely here and Way to Grow is keeping busy! Read on for an invitation to join our virtual Education is Power event, see children learning and working hard in our new virtual world, learn how we created a virtual classroom, and to get important updates on 2020 giving.
The teachers at our Way to Grow Preschool Pals are using creative ways to help keep both teachers and students connected during this peacetime emergency. Shortly after the stay-at-home order was placed, the team created a private Facebook group for the parents and children of the preschool. The teachers began creating videos from their homes that continued some of the children’s daily routines (such as discussing the calendar and letter of the week) and downloading them onto the private Facebook page. The families could respond via comments or send videos back. The teachers then incorporated these responses in their next video. The teachers also created videos of themselves reading books and giving ideas for easy activities that the families could do together. The books being featured are both in English and Spanish.
The preschool teachers then began scheduling virtual home visits to allow each child an opportunity to actually interact with the staff members. The teachers create a lesson plan that focuses on basic literacy skills and offers both quiet, sedentary activities and more active movement. Families sign up for visits at times that are convenient for them. Each child can have one visit per week so that they can continue their relationship with the teachers and continue to progress with their learning. These visits are in addition to virtual visits with their Family Educator.
The preschool virtual home visits have been a success! The teachers have had opportunities not only to connect with the children enrolled in the preschool, but also re-connect with older siblings that have attended in the past and younger siblings that may enroll in the future. Several children are using their families as part of the lesson. For example, one child was asked to name something that starts with a “W” and they ran out of the room to get their sister who was wearing a watch. Others have used their baby as an example of something loud and their moms as something that is beautiful.
It is important in this trying time to keep some stability and normalcy in the lives of these young learners. By giving the children these opportunities to remember their routines and practice their skills, we hope to come out of this time with children that are mentally healthy and developmentally prepared for kindergarten.