Staff

Meet our New Staff!

Meet our New Staff! 3334 1459 Payton Gresczyk

We are excited to welcome six new team members at Way to Grow! Learn a bit more about Angela, Payton, Daniel, Dawn, Kate, and Fartun!

Angela Hamilton

Recruiter & Resource Advocate

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

My name is Angela, I live in Minneapolis. I grew up in Minnesota most of my life, my family moved here from Detroit, MI when I was a child. I love to travel and try new things. I enjoy doing yoga and going for walks.

What excites you about working at Way to Grow?

I am excited for the opportunity to share this great program with the community and interact with families! I am also excited to be a part of an organization that cares deeply for children’s outcomes.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I enjoy volunteering with children, going to restaurants, shopping, and taking vacations. I try to do something for self-care at least once a week.

Payton Gresczyk

Development & Communications Associate

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

I studied nonprofit management at Hamline University and knew from there that I wanted to build my career in the nonprofit sector. I am so excited to be part of the Way to Grow team and work with donors, community members, and our internal team to better communities within the Twin Cities area.

What excites you about working at Way to Grow?

I am excited to be part of a dynamic team that is invested in bettering the lives of local community members and making education more equitable!

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love spending time with my friends and family, trying new restaurants, biking around the lakes, playing games, and reading. I am looking forward to summer and enjoying as much sunshine as I can!

Daniel Hanson

Data Analyst

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

I moved to Minnesota to be close to family and for a career in logistics. I spent years in that industry developing a lot of the skills that I use today at WTG and I feel like I learned very little about logistics itself. So now I’m here!

What excites you about working at Way to Grow?

I’m never too satisfied with initiatives that have aims to improve systems or create new ones; they have the wrong target, they didn’t earmark enough funding for public awareness, they neglected some group, et cetera. But Way to Grow is an organization that has an eye open for these gaps, and it is actually doing something about them. If I can make that work easier, I feel like I’m contributing to the communities that we live in. Also, Way to Grow has been evaluated as highly cost effective in our category of work, which reassures me that I’m in the right place.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I would love to, in this answer, say that I love movies, but actually I really enjoy talking about movies much more. A huge amount of my free time is spent listening to criticism and commentary, and I think that it is underappreciated as an art of its own. (But, of course, filmmakers and actors are great, so hello to Jason Isaacs).

Dawn Brocken

Human Resource Manager

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

Mom to two awesome humans, a fluffy 70 lb. midnight retriever and an old man bichon-terrier mix. Penelope soon-to-be 12 and Genevieve ‘Evie’ ten and a half (that’s very important!), Rocco 9 months and Maddux 17 years old, both dogs have baseball references for names – love baseball. I am a native Minnesotan who has lived and studied art/photography in Savannah, GA and Scotland, UK. Younger sister to Kirstin, daughter of two high school sweethearts who’ve been married for 55 years this year. Avid coffee drinker – fountain of useless trivia information – degree in HR from Bethel University

What excites you about working at Way to Grow?

Working where the mission, vision and values match our actions and I get to be a part of it!

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Softball transportation, bleacher coach and cheerleader for Evie, developing YouTube show ideas with Penelope. Refinishing furniture – spending time with family and friends especially now that the sun is setting on the pandemic – crafting and cooking with my kiddos and even some friendly baking competitions – road trips, camping and campfires.

Kate Kinkade

Communications & Development Coordinator

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

I graduated with a degree in Communications in 2018, and I’ve been busy ever since! I love social impact work, community building, and creating art in digital spaces.

What excites you about working at Way to Grow?

Educational equity is important to me, and I feel honored to be a part of Way to Grow’s work in my own home community. Everyone at the office has welcomed me with open arms (and plates of Ethiopian injera, Somali coffee, and raspberry donuts).

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love the Gunflint Trail, sleeping in late, and keeping up with crime dramas on HBO Max. I live in Minneapolis with my dog Apple – these days, she keeps me busy.

Fartun Ahmed

Family Educator

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

My name is Fartun and I love working with families!

What excites you about working at Way to Grow?

What excites me most about working at Way to Grow is serving families most in need and getting them the support they need!

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I enjoy being outside in nature and spending time with loved ones.

Welcome, New Staff!

Welcome, New Staff! 3334 1459 Maren Nelson

Meet our new Family Educator, Roxanne!

What brings you to Way to Grow?

I have felt aligned with values of Way to Grow’s mission and vision for some time now. After a friend mentioned Way to Grow in conversation about a month ago, I was happy to find, apply for, and accept a position that I feel will fulfill my desire to positively impact the lives of families and young children. 

Where did you work before Way to Grow?

I have worked a variety of positions in the past, including an ABA therapist, home visiting Developmental Therapist, and nanny, but none that have been able to meet my passion for advocacy and progress as closely as this position as Family Educator. 

What excites you most about working at Way to Grow?

The enthusiasm of staff and their determination to encourage positive change in the community excites me every day and it brings me joy to work for Way to Grow! 

What do you do for fun?

In my spare time I do yoga, paint, play with my adorable attention- seeking puppy, and play video games and board games with friends (virtually of course).

Meet our New Development & Communications Associate, Agatha!

What brings you to Way to Grow?

As I was seeking a new position, I wanted to find an organization that shares my values and makes a real difference in the lives of the people being helped. When I connected with Way to Grow, I knew that I had found the right organization. 

Where did you work before Way to Grow?

I have been volunteering and working for nonprofits since I graduated from college. My most recent position was as Database and Development Officer at Books For Africa, a St. Paul-based nonprofit that provides books for schools and libraries across the African continent. 

What excites you most about working at Way to Grow?

I’m excited to be working for an organization that does so much for our local community. I’m passionate about the importance of education for children, so it’s very rewarding to work with likeminded people and to be able to meet and get to know the families we help and see the impact of our work firsthand. 

What do you do for fun?

I have a lot of hobbies! I really enjoy camping and being outdoors, reading, and art. During the pandemic, I wanted to be able to make my own masks so I got a sewing machine and started learning how to sew, which has been really fun. 

Welcome Roxanne and Agatha!

A New Face at Preschool Pals

A New Face at Preschool Pals 2500 1459 Way to Grow

Meet our new Preschool Teacher, Melissa!

Tell us a little bit about you!

I have worked in the Early Childhood field for 27 years. I have my Bachelor’s Degree in Early childhood Education.

What brings you to Way to Grow?

What attracted me to Way to Grow is the organization’s value of connecting the parents and the community in their child’s learning and growth. 

Where did you work before Way to Grow?

My last position was a Preschool Teacher at an Intergenerational Program. This program allowed memory care residents and the children in the child care center to learn together through activities as well as help one another through art and problem solving. 

What excites you most about working at Way to Grow?

I am excited to get to know the families and their children. I am also excited to help the children in the program be successful and ready for their first day of Kindergarten, and meeting all of the people that have a part in making this organization so successful. 

What do you do for fun?

In my spare time I enjoy spending time with my family, walking my dog, gardening, reading books, and enjoying the outdoors. 

Welcome, Melissa!

Our newest Family Educator!

Our newest Family Educator! 2500 1459 Angelique McDonald

Tell us a little bit about you!

I am a wife of 24 years to an awesome husband. I have three grown and wonderful children, ages 30, 25, and 22 years old. I am also a proud grandmother to two adorable grandchildren, ages 8 and 2 years old.

What brings you to Way to Grow?

Patricia [a Way to Grow Program Manager] was my supervisor at HeadStart, and she asked me on several occasions to work at Way to Grow. I have also been in the Early Childhood Education field for 20 years. Without a doubt working with families is my passion!

What excites you most about working at Way to Grow?

I am excited about interacting and working with the families. I also enjoy working with all of my awesome co-workers.

What do you do for fun?

I hang out and enjoy my awesome and loving family, as much as possible!

What do you hope to bring to Way to Grow?

I hope to bring my knowledge and understanding as a mother, grandmother and an educator.

Meet our newest Family Educator!

Meet our newest Family Educator! 2500 1459 Angelique McDonald

Meet our newest Family Educator, Courtney!

Tell us a little bit about you!

I grew up in Inver Grove Heights, MN. I received my Bachelor’s of Science in Social Work with a minor in Nonprofit Leadership from the University of North Dakota. This past January I decided to move back to the Twin Cities to be closer to my family.

What brings you to Way to Grow?

I was drawn to Way to Grow because of the approach they take with families. I have always had a strong passion for children’s education and have seen how family life can impact a child’s learning. As I learned more about Way to Grow, I saw how they looked at each family as a whole to provide education to support the child’s development, while putting a focus on the parent being a child’s first teacher. It was very inspiring to me.

Where did you work before Way to Grow?

I worked for an agency in Grand Forks that provided a multitude of services related to different forms of violence. My role specifically was on the prevention side of things: doing outreach, training to adults and youth, social media, etc. The training and outreach I did with adults focused on what they could do if they were to see violence happening in the community. When working with the youth it was a larger focus on what healthy relationships look like in both friendships and dating relationships.

What excites you most about working at Way to Grow?

I am excited to work with each family and give them the tools they need so that their child can grow up with the education and confidence they need to become whatever it is they want to be in life.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

In my spare time I enjoy going camping and hiking, especially if I get to bring my 70lb mutt, Gunnar, with me. I like to spend a lot of my time outside, whether it be for a run, out on the lake, playing with my dog, or just sitting outside with family and friends, so I definitely try to take advantage of the few months that I actually can. I also enjoy reading. I mostly read mysteries, any book I can learn something from, or ones about travel. 

Welcome, Courtney!

Meet our new Director of Education!

Meet our new Director of Education! 2500 1459 Angelique McDonald

Help us welcome Deedee Stevens-Neal to Way to Grow. Deedee comes to us from the Fraser School where she was the Director. She oversaw the large childcare center which cares for kids who have autism, mental health issues, and special needs.

Deedee was drawn to Way to Grow because of our intentional partnerships with organizations around the Twin Cities to help create a network that empowers families and centers their child’s education. She believes that the home visiting component is very unique to Way to Grow and is essential to family success.

Deedee is excited to bring her own education and experiences to Way to Grow and hopes that a different perspective will help grow the organization. Please join us in welcoming Deedee to the Way to Grow family!

 

People to Look Up To

People to Look Up To 2560 1708 Ken Story

Many a day for the past nine years, a little white bus has rumbled through the streets of Minneapolis carrying precious cargo to and from preschool. Billowing with energy and enthusiasm, the man behind the wheel is more than a bus driver—he is a caretaker, a friend, and a role model to each and every child that boards his bus.

Described as “humble” by his colleagues and “fun and interesting” by the children, Mr. Willie’s unique and special flare makes him a very special and incredibly important part of the Way to Grow team. Transportation is a hardship for many of our families, and Mr. Willie works four days a week to help eliminate that barrier, always with a smile and wave, a story, and laughter.

Often the first and last Way to Grow employee our preschool students see, Mr. Willie makes it a point to be not just a driver, but an integral part of their lives every day. “My first priorities are the safety of the kids and making sure they get to school on time, but in that hour that I have those kids, I take advantage of any opportunity to engage with them. Engagement is education in and of itself, and that is important,” Mr. Willie shares. “We bond because I listen to them. Sometimes they have problems, sometimes they have concerns, and sometimes they just want someone to talk to.”

When asked about his favorite part of the job, Mr. Willie easily replies that it is the children who fill those seats. “Each child is different, and they are so intelligent and energetic. When I look at our bus, I see that we have the makings of future lawyers, doctors, politicians—almost every type of position that will contribute to our community in the future,” he expresses.

While most people dread the beginning of the work week, Mr. Willie is the exact opposite. “I can’t wait until Monday. I love my job.”

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