Success Stories

 Profile Way to Grow families/children and their accomplishments

A Note to My Family Educator

A Note to My Family Educator 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

We received the following note from a recent graduate of our program and we couldn’t help but share!  Without a doubt, we have some of the best staff on the planet out there not only empowering parents and educating children, but truly becoming part of the families they work with.

Today I am going to be graduating from Way to Grow. Thank you for helping me grow smarter. Shamsa had been coming to our house since my oldest brother was 2 and now he is 15 so, Shamsa had been coming for 13 years. I really appreciate you coming Shamsa. Thank you, you’re the best! You have taught me a lot. For example, multiplication, division, addition and subtraction. You also helped get me ready for the MAP and MCA tests. You are very kind and full of great ideas. I really appreciate being in Way to Grow and thanks again for all you did!
Way to Grow 3rd Grader


Practice Makes Perfect

Practice Makes Perfect 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Jacqueline is a bright spirited kindergartner with glowing dark skin and a vibrant smile bound to melt your heart. When Jacqueline started school this fall, she struggled knowing that she did not know how to write. When her Family Educator visited Jacqueline this past September, Jacqueline held up a piece of jumbo-ruled paper. With chicken scratches going every which way, Jacqueline’s letters were far from following the dashes between the lines.

Jacqueline grew visibly discouraged. She tossed her pencil aside and hung her heavy head. Her Family Educator was along for the ride. “It’s okay; I’ll be here every step of the way! We will work on this together,” Collette assured.

You see, Collette has seen Jacqueline grow over the years. She knew she could do it! Jacqueline had already come a long way. With her big sister, Grace, Jacqueline had joined Way to Grow following their parents’ big move from Togo, Africa. Her family, seeking help navigating their futures in their new, but foreign land, made their way to Way to Grow. They have been with us ever since.

Collette just had to convince Jacqueline herself that she could achieve all she set her mind to. With that, the fearless duo set off! “We practiced, practiced, practiced! Each and every home visit, we wrote sight words, names.. all sorts of stuff. When I went back to visit after winter break, Jacqueline could hardly wait to show me a recent assignment.”

Because of Collette’s encouragement, and of course Jacqueline’s hard work and support of her parents, the difference was night and day! Jacqueline beamed with pride as she pointed to her work, “Look Mrs. Collette! Look at my new handwriting!”

Now she is ready for success in school in every way!

Invest in Us

Invest in Us 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Inside a Home Visit

Inside a Home Visit 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

With President Obama’s recent announcement to invest $750 million in preschool and childcare programs across the country, early learning is front and center, bringing home visiting into the national spotlight.  Most of us, however, don’t directly participate in home visiting, leaving questions of what all it entails and why it is so effective.  Today, we invite you to step inside a home visit with a Way to Grow family.

On a cold December night as most of Minneapolis is rushing home from work, Marie has just arrived at a small apartment building hidden away behind the busy streets of one of the city’s “hippest” neighborhoods.  Though greeted cheerfully at the door like an old family friend, there’s much more to this visit as told by the bulk of Marie’s tote.  Kevin, a kindergartner at Windom, and his parents were one of Marie’s first families when she started with Way to Grow two years ago.  As first generation Ecuadorian immigrants, parents Sophia and Marcos count on Marie to bridge the language and cultural gaps between home, school, and the community.

Following a warm and lively welcome, we were embraced by the enticing aroma of dinner being cooked by Sophia.  Everyone filed into the living room that doubles as the family’s bedroom and sat cross-legged on the floor.  Marie jumps into lesson mode as an adult friend of the family nonchalantly joins in, taking a spot on the neatly made bed.

The family watches Marie pull the small, lined dry-erase board out of her bag and Kevin springs up to find the marker she had left behind at their last visit.  “I only have a couple, so take good care of it and make sure you use it,” Marie had instructed.   Kevin impressively had safely kept it and proudly handed it off after writing his name on the board.

Following several fun learning activities, Marie gives dad and Kevin sight-word bingo cards, keeping one for herself.  Two months ago, Kevin recognized just two out of 100 English sight-words.  Today, he recognizes at least 30 more with confidence.  “Kevin is doing so well, have you been practicing?!” Marie asks Marcos.  “Si!” he exclaims as Kevin continues to draw and read aloud sight-words from the bag.  About halfway through the game, Kevin had memorized the words remaining on all three bingo cards demonstrating a high level of engagement and enthusiasm for learning.

Joining us from the kitchen, Sophia brought a certificate Kevin had received at school.  “It’s for perfect attendance!  Kevin did not miss any days of school!” Marie celebrated this success with the family, and congratulated a beaming Kevin and proud parents.  Marie then handed Sophia a stack of books in Spanish, appropriate for Kevin’s reading level.  She encourages the parents to read with Kevin and his younger brother, Jack.

Exchanging gratitude and salutations, it’s clear that relationships are the driving force behind successful home visits.

“Kevin has come a long way in his learning over the past two years, as have his parents,” Marie tells me outside, “They will always hold a special place in my heart.”  Last year, Kevin was among the 88% of Way to Grow kids deemed ready for kindergarten.  Marie, passionate about the work she is doing, heads off to the next home visit. is packed with free games and tools to help parents and educators teach sight words to kids. To access some of the games and tools used by Way to Grow during Home Visits, please visit

Making a Difference

Making a Difference 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

JaquelineMeet Jacqueline.  We hope to make Jacqueline’s holiday brighter by raising $2,500; enough to cover one full year of home visits and comprehensive programming with Way to Grow.  Jacqueline’s parents are from Togo, a small, tropical sub-Saharan country in West Africa. Edoh, Jacqueline’s mother has a goal for her children that many of us share. “Our educational goal for our daughter,” she says, “is that she will choose a career that makes her happy.” Jacqueline beams as she tells us, “I want to be a doctor so I can check my mom’s heart, teeth, ears, and mouth to be sure she is healthy.”

Jacqueline passed the school readiness assessment this past spring joining the 88% of Way to Grow children deemed ready for kindergarten! She participated in our Early Learning graduation ceremony this summer, lighting up her white cap and gown! Now in kindergarten, she is very excited to finally attend the same school as her big sister, Grace.  Grace has told Jacqueline so many fun and exciting stories about Bancroft Community School that she could hardly wait for it to begin this fall!

Jacqueline’s parents tell us they love Way to Grow for, “The way they teach. They come into my home and educate the whole family. They are flexible and are available to come when I am not at work, even if that is a Saturday morning.”  Sponsor Jacqueline as part of our My Scholar initiative this holiday season, and give one child the one gift that can never be taken back.

We cannot thank you enough for your support .
Together, we will make a difference!

Tonia: Taking the Torch

Tonia: Taking the Torch 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Tonia was pregnant with her second child when she was struck with the news that her two-year-old would need extra help if she was to talk before kindergarten.  Tonia’s doctor referred Tonia to Way to Grow.

The Way to Grow Family Educator began to visit Tonia, working to overcome the numerous barriers she was facing as a single mother. Tonia was connected to housing, clothing, food shelves and preschool resources. Once her family’s basic needs were met, Tonia shared one of her greatest goals: to be the first person in her family to graduate from college. At the time, it seemed impossible. However, anyone who meets Tonia can attest to her strong will, sharp wit and determination.  Minneapolis Community and Technical College proved a perfect match.  Tonia thrived and soon her once lofty goals became a reality as she earned her Associate degree. Tonia moved on to find a place to call her own and in rewriting her own story, created a brighter future for her children.

Fifteen years later, Tonia returned to Way to Grow to guide and support families like her own.  “My story is no different from the families we help today. I decided to take the help and support, and turn it into something beneficial for my family. I wanted to change my circumstance, but didn’t know how until a Way to Grow Family Educator showed me.”

Success Story: Laura and Joey

Success Story: Laura and Joey 150 150 Way to Grow

When a Way to Grow family educator first met Laura and Joey, they lived in a studio apartment with a mattress on the floor, a table and two plastic chairs. Joey, nearly 4 years old, did not speak much and was still wearing diapers. His mother, Laura, was pregnant and had diabetes.

The family educator immediately assessed the needs of the family and identified that Joey needed to be screened for developmental delays. The screenings identified Joey’s developmental delays, and he was immediately enrolled in a special education program. The family educator also learned that Joey was eligible for supplemental Social Security income and assisted Laura in the application process.

With Joey in the special education classes he needed, the family educator turned her attention to Laura’s health. She connected Laura with a visiting nurse from the Minnesota Visiting Nurse Agency (MVNA) to monitor Laura’s diabetes and help with her pregnancy. The family educator taught Laura about the importance of exercise and healthy eating habits to help with her diabetes, and enrolled the whole family in a YMCA exercise program.

The family educator also identified the family’s need for safe furniture in their home, and connected Laura with an organization that provides free furniture for low-income families. The family educator even went with the family to the warehouse when they picked out their furniture. A crib for the new baby, a sofa for their living room and a bed were delivered to their home shortly thereafter.

Through hard work and support from Way to Grow, Laura and Joey have obtained a basic level of stability and health, and Joey is developing the skills he will need for kindergarten and beyond.

Success Story: Amy

Success Story: Amy 150 150 Way to Grow

Amy was a very shy and quiet child who rarely smiled and never even spoke to her own family. Amy’s mother had recently passed away, and her brother and constant companion had autism. Amy’s father, Dave, knew he needed help with her development. He knew Amy was very behind academically and socially. So he called Way to Grow.

When Shamsa, a Way to Grow family educator, told him about Way to Grow’s program, he was interested. However, he expressed he didn’t understand how two, one-hour in-home visits per month and three hours of daily preschool would change his daughter.

Last fall, Amy started attending Preschool Pals, Way to Grow’s daily preschool program, while her entire family started meeting with the family educator. Amy’s first days at preschool were tough. She didn’t want to open up to her teacher or other students at school. But quickly, that all changed.

Dave was happy to report that his daughter had found her voice. The dynamics of the home have also changed dramatically. The entire family is now working together better. Dave has shared that Amy is now confident, outgoing and has many new friends at school.

Her preschool teacher and family educator have stated that Amy is now a leader in the classroom. She loves helping with special projects and goes out of her way to make the new kids in class feel welcome. She also no longer sits in the corner all by herself and plays. Instead, she constantly generates new games to play with all the kids.

Since starting Way to Grow, Amy has learned all her letters and loves to read with her dad and brother. She also is comfortable serving as a little interpreter for her family. At one time, Amy would be terribly afraid of new people, but now she helps translate for her dad as they navigate their community.

Way to Grow is proud of Amy and her family and can’t wait to hear about all her success when she starts kindergarten next year.

Success Story: Luis

Success Story: Luis 150 150 Way to Grow

Luis was a very smart and active bilingual 5-year-old boy. When his family educator, Eveline, started meeting with his family, his mom, Maria, expressed concern about his speech and behavior. His preschool teacher had informed her that Luis needed help, so she had him take the Early-Childhood Screening for Minneapolis Public Schools. He passed these tests with an average score, but his mom and teacher were very concerned about his behavior. Luis would never sit still for story time and had a hard time following rules at school. Eveline explained to Maria that every child develops differently, and that Luis might need time to learn and adjust to his school environment. Eveline taught Maria new tools to help manage Luis’ behavior and adjust to his surroundings.

During the first home visit, Luis’ lack of attention was very apparent. He couldn’t sit for more than two minutes, and his mom had to keep telling him to sit. Eveline explained to Maria that it was okay and asked Luis if he wanted to jump. He said yes, so the whole family jumped and counted. Luis thought this was great, and giggled at seeing his mom and dad jump around the house. After jumping, Eveline sat down with Luis and read him a book, and amazingly, Luis sat and listened intently. His mom and dad were amazed. After the visit, they told Eveline they were shocked at the style of the home visit. In their culture, education is often approached with a stricter, more formal style in which the children just sit and listen to the teacher talk. It was apparent that this style wouldn’t work for Luis, and Eveline knew this from the start. She knew she had to teach his parents new ways to play with their child and give them the skills to identify his learning style.

After Eveline had worked with the family for over a year, Luis’ mom and dad have come to believe she has worked miracles. Luis is no longer in trouble at school and is going into kindergarten fully prepared. His mom and dad love the educational play and are always asking for new activities and lessons.

Student of the Month!

Student of the Month! 150 150 Way to Grow

We’re excited to share this incredible Way to Grow success story!

This is Family Educator Collette Fredrickson reporting:

“On Monday morning, Osemwivie, kindergarten student and Way to Grow participant, was named Student of the Month at her school! Last August, Osemwivie was unable to read a single word and refused to even try out of fear of failing. She did very well on her IGDI (Individual Growth and Development Indicators) assessments but hadn’t started the formal reading instruction that happens in Kindergarten.

In a matter of weeks, Osemwivie was well on her way to reading A level books. By January, she was reading and comprehending G level books with ease. Her mom has done a fantastic job of integrating reading into everyday activities such as car rides, grocery shopping, waiting at the dentist, and their nightly bedtime routine. Lately, mom is the one who listens to the bedtime stories while Osemwivie reads the book. (Osemwivie even corrects her family educator’s reading ‘slip-ups’.)”

Congrats to Collette, Osemwivie, and her mother for all their hard work!

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