History

For 30 years, Way to Grow has been a neighbor, a friend, and a support to thousands in our community. From our Little Yellow House to our new home on Irving Avenue North, our extended Way to Grow family has helped to reach families, build networks of services, and prepare children for school. As we take a look back at 30 years of change and impact, we also look forward to our future. We know there is more work to be done and we are ready to tackle these challenges. Way to Grow will be there for our community for as long as it takes to ensure all families have the tools they need to succeed.

1989
Way to Grow opens

Phillips TLC is the first Way to Grow location to open, created through United Way’s “Success by 6” initiative, focused on improving school readiness through community change.

1991
Expansion begins

Way to Grow expands its service area by opening a second location — Northside Family Community Connection — in partnership with Minneapolis Public Schools.

1992
Our first graduates

Way to Grow celebrates its first graduating class from Northside Family Community Connection.

1994
Graduation
2000
Exploring
2003
One mission

Way to Grow combines its nine locations to two — Little Yellow House and Sabathany Community Center — to bring staff together for program continuity.

Nonprofit status

After 15 years as a Minneapolis Youth Coordinating Board program, Way to Grow attains independent status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

2005
Evaluating school readiness

With only 38% of pre-k children ready for kindergarten, Way to Grow implements new curriculum and interventions.

A call for support

Mayor R.T. Rybak proclaims June 15, 2005 as “Way to Grow Day” urging all citizens to support the importance of quality early childhood development.

Advocacy pays off

Staff, parents, and children participate in the first annual “Voices for Children Advocacy” rally at the State Capitol, resulting in additional early education funding years later.

2006
Preschool Pals

Way to Grow opens Preschool Pals at Center for Families in North Minneapolis.

City recognition

Way to Grow receives Certificate of Recognition from Mayor’s Office for “outstanding leadership, dedication, and vision in keeping Minneapolis children safe from lead.”

2007
Little Earth Preschool

Way to Grow opens a preschool at Little Earth in South Minneapolis.

2008
Broadway location

Way to Grow consolidates its two offices to a new Broadway Avenue location in North Minneapolis.

“Star of the State”

Children’s Defense Fund of Minnesota presents a “Star of the State” award to Way to Grow for effectively and creatively meeting the needs of Minnesota’s children in “Early Care & Education.”

2009
New brand

Strategic design firm Little & Company begins partnership with Way to Grow as a pro bono client, creating a new identity to elevate the brand and mission.

“Great By Eight”

Way to Grow expands programming to stay with families through third grade — a crucial year in the cementing of literacy, school success, and health for all families.

2010
Proven results

For the first time, 80% of Way to Grow children pass assessments and are deemed ready for kindergarten.

2012
Governor’s Council

Way to Grow Executive Director, Carolyn Smallwood, is appointed to the Early Learning Council by Governor Mark Dayton.

Top ratings

Way to Grow is accredited as a 4-star Parent Aware preschool provider. This is in addition to the National Association for the Education of Young Children certification received in 2007.

2013
Legislative success

Way to Grow rallies with the MinneMinds coalition; legislature approves $40 million for Early Learning Scholarships.

2014
Preschool P.A.L.S.

Way to Grow opens a preschool at Urban Ventures focused on critical parent-child learning time, funded by Redleaf Family Foundation.

Cradle to K

Carolyn Smallwood is asked to
co-chair Mayor Betsy Hodge’s Cradle to K Cabinet. The initiative works to close the achievement gap in Minneapolis.

Intensive evaluation

Receives the Social Innovation Fund Grant through the Greater Twin Cities United Way — investing in organizations focused on innovative solutions, expanding economic opportunity for youth, and leveraging collective impact. 

2015
Lucy C. Laney Community School

Way to Grow expands programming to Lucy C. Laney Community School. The Way to Grow Family Room provides a place to host parent-child programming and reach neighbors.

2017
My Voice Matters

Way to Grow launches a new parent engagement initiative, My Voice Matters, hosting workshops and events to help parents navigate the systems that impact their child’s education. 

2018
Parents as Teachers

Way to Grow becomes an evidence-based organization by adopting the nationally certified Parents as Teachers curriculum.

Expansion

Way to Grow expands services deeper into Minneapolis and into Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center.

2019
A new home

In June, Way to Grow moves into a new home on Irving Ave. in the Harrison neighborhood of Minneapolis. The move allows for further expansion and provides a better space for programming.

2020
Virtual Visits

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and in just a few short months, Way to Grow moved our holistic home visiting program online. Virtual visits, online preschool, and groups conducted over Zoom were a lifeline to families. Family Educators referred families to critical resources, provided curriculum and tablets to families learning at home, and joined our community in working toward social equity and justice. In response to these great challenges, our staff, families, and supporters stepped up to build a stronger, more connected future. 

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