A letter from our CEO, Carolyn Smallwood
2019 was a big year for Way to Grow. Not only did we celebrate our 30th anniversary, we built a solid foundation for our programming by implementing the Parents as Teachers curriculum, integrating three internal database systems, maintaining our metrics, and expanding the number of schools reached by our services. As part of Way to Grow’s growth strategy, we opened our new office in the Harrison neighborhood and celebrated the three-decade journey that brought us back to where we began.
The strategies we implemented in 2019 paid off when our world shifted as a result of a global pandemic. In response to the needs of our families and the realities of the impact of COVID-19, Way to Grow pivoted to virtual home visiting, conducted groups online, created an online preschool, provided academic support to families learning at home, and made more connections to services than ever before.
None of us could have predicted the events that followed, yet even before the pandemic, Minnesota had one of the largest racial disparities in housing, health, employment, and education in the country. Our work was vital then, and it is even more critical today. The pandemic has exacerbated those inequities, and for months we have been hearing from families about the challenges they face and how Way to Grow is a lifeline for them when the world is so unstable and the future ever uncertain.
I am so grateful to the community partners, foundations, government agencies, corporations, and individuals that have supported Way to Grow during the past two years. Thank you for placing your trust in us and in the work that we do. I also want to thank our amazing Way to Grow staff and our board of directors. We came together to face unprecedented challenges—from expanding our program to supporting a community in a crisis. We’ve shown that we can weather any storm when we do it together.
Today we are at a crossroads. As we wrestle with the hard truths of racial inequality and watch as the disparities throughout our community are magnified, we cannot simply conduct business as usual. These times of great struggle must galvanize us toward action. Now is the time for us to come together as a community to push for equality and social justice for those who have been left behind. The founders of Way to Grow believed in that vision—that all children and their families deserve to live in a just and equal society. Over 30 years ago, we embarked on a mission to do just that.
Let us continue to work together, reaching for the possibilities of the future together.