Great by Eight

The Present and Future of Way to Grow’s Impact

The Present and Future of Way to Grow’s Impact 3415 3293 Chelsea DeLong

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!

Introducing Jearlyn + Jevetta Steele!

Introducing Jearlyn + Jevetta Steele! 1200 600 Way to Grow

Jearlyn Steele

Jearlyn is a member of the internationally acclaimed family, The Steeles, who have performed from Carnegie Hall to Brazil and to the Super Bowl Live Verizon stage in 2018. Recently, Jearlyn and The Steeles were a part of the 2022 (Prince) Celebration at Paisley Park in Chanhassen, Minnesota. For more than a decade, she has been the Entertainment Reporter for Twin Cities Public Television’s award-winning political show Almanac interviewing local, national and international acts.

As a keynote speaker, facilitator and emcee, Jearlyn has inspired audiences around the country and the Caribbean.  Maintaining her four-hour Sunday night radio show called Steele Talkn’ on WCCO Radio 830AM, has been a joy for more than two decades.  Developing and delivering her TedX Talk in 2016 offered a revisit of her Personal Values Statement, which has emboldened her as a woman, mother, entertainer, and student.

Musically, she has performed with the Minnesota Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Prince, Mavis Staples and more.  She was a frequent special guest on the national radio broadcast A Prairie Home Companion performing duets with music greats Carole King and Elvis Costello. Her vocal talents landed her a feature in the Robert Altman film, A Prairie Home Companion starring Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones and Garrison Keillor.

Jearlyn has served on Boards for Chrysalis—a women’s resource center and the Ordway Circle of Stars, who unite children with the world of art. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts degree in Leadership and Innovation in Ministry at Luther Seminary St. Paul, MN.

In 2016, an Honorary Doctorate degree was conferred upon her by the University of Indianapolis and in October 2019, she received an Emmy for narrator of the TPT documentary, Flour Power. Jearlyn is a mother of two and a grandmother of three.

Jevetta Steele

Jevetta Steele s a member of the internationally acclaimed musical family, The Steeles.

She is most noted for her Academy Award nominated performance of Calling You from the motion picture Bagdad Café, which is certified GOLD in several European countries. Miss Steele is an original cast member of the Broadway, national and international touring hit “The Gospel at Colonus”, a featured artist on 2 operas (“Dear Mrs. Parks” & “African Portraits”), a recipient of 4 Gold records and an author of 2 plays- “2 Queens-1 Castle…an autobiographical music” and contributor with Don Cheadle on “Point of Revue”.

Ms. Steele has recorded 4 albums, performed on many major theatrical stages while lending her voice to national artist the likes of Prince, The Sounds of Blackness, Natalie Merchant and more. Her voice can also be found on local/regional radio and television commercials.

Meet Maya and Maki!

Meet Maya and Maki! 2560 1707 Chelsea DeLong

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!

Meet Aubrey! 2560 1707 Way to Grow

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!

2019 Graduations!

2019 Graduations! 1250 834 Angelique McDonald

Summer at Way to Grow is always an exciting time. Read on to hear about our recent 3rd Grade and Early Learner Graduations, and don’t forget to check out all those great smiling faces below!

3rd Grade Graduation

In June, we honored over 60 third graders and their families as we celebrated their graduation from our Great By Eight program. For some, it was bittersweet as they said goodbye to Family Educators that had worked with them since infancy. Yet for many others it was a time to say “see you soon,” knowing their younger siblings would keep their Family Educators busy for years to come.

Families were invited to a fun night of games, crafts, food, and celebration. Each child was presented with a certificate, goodie bag, and a book, and parents and caregivers were recognized for all the work the entire family put in to getting their kids set up for success. It truly takes a village.

Congratulations, 3rd graders! We have loved having you in our program and know you will go on to do amazing things in this world!

Early Leader Graduation

One month later on July 28, over 100 preschoolers graduated from our early learner program. With over 500 people in attendance, we had a blast as our preschoolers walked across the stage, families ate a meal together, and everyone played games, made crafts, and put temporary tattoos everywhere!

This event is always a highlight of the year because it truly reminds us of the importance of the work that Way to Grow does every day. For these children, this is the first of many graduations and it inspires families to keep working towards a brighter future. We are so incredibly proud of the work these families have done so far and cannot wait to see how they continue to grow in the years to come!

We want to extend heartfelt thanks to all who made these wonderful celebrations possible:

Thank you to all the Way to Grow parents and guardians for your work and commitment to your child’s education. To our Way to Grow Family Educators and staff, thank you for all your hard work, enthusiasm, and dedication. None of this could happen without you. Finally, thank you to our volunteers, the Way to Grow Board of Directors, and our funders for your continued support.

A special thank you to Books to Grow and Minneapolis City of Lakes Rotary Club for providing books for our graduates and families!

Way to Grow Celebrates the Achievement of Early Learners enrolled in ‘Great by Eight’

Way to Grow Celebrates the Achievement of Early Learners enrolled in ‘Great by Eight’ 150 150 Lisa Bryant

Strengthening Families: Hassan and Asha’s Story

Strengthening Families: Hassan and Asha’s Story 1200 800 Ivy Marsnik

“From the moment we met Shany in 2005, she was very respectful,” Hassan says thinking back to 12 years ago to the day when a neighbor introduced his family to Shany, a Way to Grow Family Educator. “The fact that Shany was a part of our culture and spoke our language made it very comfortable for my wife, Asha, who was often home alone with our children.”

Shany enrolled the family and began working with Hassan and Asha’s oldest son, Hamza, who was four years old at the time. Shany brought learning materials over each week to help Hamza with his reading and writing, and helped Asha find and enroll Hamza in a preschool program.

Hassan spent the next few years studying at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul to become a high school math teacher. Over the course of his studies, he and Asha had three more children. As the children grew, their reading and vocabulary skills improved with Shany’s guidance. Shany always explained how the children were doing, and helped Hassan and Asha understand where each child was developmentally.  Hassan was very pleased to see the improvements. He knew Shany was teaching his children the skills they would need to be successful in the classroom.

Over time, Shany became the family’s friend. “She served as an educator and mentor not only to our children, but to our entire family,” Hassan says. “Shany provided guidance and help to all of us. Whenever she made a home visit, she brought books, school supplies, learning materials and toys, and even bikes for our children. She also provided Asha and me with important community resources such as housing, library, and school choice information. Shany even went as far as to help my wife, whose English language is limited, translate documents, enroll in English Language Learning (ELL) classes, and complete a Child Development Associate (CDA) certificate program.”

“We began telling others in our community about Way to Grow the same way our neighbor had shared the word about the organization with us. It is such a great program, and our community needs it. It is so important especially in the inner city where schools are challenging for English language learners who don’t understand the system, how it works, or that our children need supplemental learning because what they learn in the classroom isn’t enough. Way to Grow helps families and immigrant communities new to the school system and brings them up. Having Shany in our home was a huge plus.”

In January 2017, Hassan and Asha moved from Minneapolis to a home in Bloomington, outside of Way to Grow’s current service area. According to Hassan, the family had two main criteria when finding a new home: having a high quality school district, and the overall safety of the community. Though Hassan and Asha miss the connections they made at Way to Grow, they could not be happier to have a place for their children to call their own.

Q&A with a Family Educator: Educating Parents about the Measles Outbreak

Q&A with a Family Educator: Educating Parents about the Measles Outbreak 150 150 Lisa Bryant

Recent reports now confirm the measles outbreak in Minnesota has spread to four counties, the most recent is LeSueur County, south of the Twin Cities. The number of confirmed cases has risen to 69 as of May 24. These cases are primarily affecting unvaccinated children ranging in age from 0 to 17 years. Way to Grow’s work in the community includes health and wellness education to help families prepare their children for success. We spoke to our Family Educators to find out how they are educating parents about the measles virus to better prepare them to make decisions regarding the health of their children.

Shamsa Idle, a Family Educator and 19-year employee with Way to Grow, was born and raised in Somalia, where she earned her degree as an RN. She worked with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (MCA), and with the World Food Programme (WFP) to eliminate malnutrition and provide care to babies suffering from low birth weight.

What information are you and other Family Educators telling families about the measles virus?

During home visits since the outbreak, Family Educators, like myself, have been asking parents if their children’s immunizations are up to date, providing them with information about the symptoms of measles, vaccination and care information, as well as providing them with resources recommended by the Minnesota Department of Health. We are emphasizing to our families how important it is to have their children vaccinated for mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) and to watch for symptoms. If a family’s child has not been vaccinated, we encourage them to call their clinic  and schedule a vaccination immediately. If they have questions, they can always ask me; otherwise, they can call their doctor.

What are some of the questions your families are asking about the virus?

One question parents have been asking is what are the symptoms? I tell them, symptoms include a fever, rash and runny nose, which occur between eight and 12 days after expose to the virus. Another question they’ve asked is if their child contracts the virus, how many days will he/she be out of school? I let them know that their child will have to stay home from school for 21 days, and this is for the safety of their child, as well as all other children. But the key question every Somali parent has been asking is if their child can become autistic as a result getting the measles vaccine. I tell them there is no direct cause-related incidence of a child becoming autistic from the MMR vaccine.

Explain why the rate of unvaccinated children is high within Minnesota’s Somali community?

It has been a long-time issue, even before this recent outbreak. First, I understand it was a myth started by a London-based researcher who wrote a paper reporting cases of autism triggered by the MMR vaccine, and everyone believed it. Second, the Somali people are a people who communicate with one another a great deal. This myth may have been passed on from one person to the next, or one group of people to another in conversation. Third, the media has helped spread the myth within the Somali community.

Has any Way to Grow family’s child contracted the measles virus?

No. I am pleased to say that no WTG children have contracted measles.

As an RN who has worked with children who have suffered from dire health conditions, what advice can you offer WTG families?

My first advice is regarding the measles virus. Please, make certain your child’s immunizations are current. If they are not, get your child vaccinated immediately.

Availability of the Revised Early Childhood Indicators of Progress: Minnesota’s Early Learning Standards (ECIPs)

Availability of the Revised Early Childhood Indicators of Progress: Minnesota’s Early Learning Standards (ECIPs) 1161 736 Ivy Marsnik

In the first five years of life, a child’s brain grows to 85% of its full capacity. Children begin to form a sense of what is possible and attainable in their young lives, exploring the world around them and finding their place within it. We know the first years of life are critical to a child’s success, but because this complex and rapid development in young children is accompanied by a very diverse set of early childhood education and care programs, having a shared set of expectations and key milestones is the foundation of a successful early childhood education system. In Minnesota, this set of shared expectations is called the Early Childhood Indicators of Progress: Minnesota’s Early Learning Standards (ECIPs).

Recently revised, the state has just released its 2017 ECIPs now available on the MDE website. The revised standards now include ages birth to kindergarten entrance and are aligned with the Minnesota Kindergarten Academic Standards. The areas of learning covered by the ECIPs include:

  • Physical and movement development
  • Social and emotional development
  • Language, literacy and communications
  • Mathematics
  • Scientific thinking
  • Social systems
  • Approaches to learning
  • The arts

A basis for curriculum, child assessment, and program evaluation in Minnesota, the ECIPs are not only intended to be used by teachers and early childhood education providers, but by families as well. Since learning starts at home with parents serving as a child’s first teachers, the ECIPs also serve as a helpful tool and resource for parents interested in learning ways they can better support their child’s learning and development.

Staff Voices: Representing Native American Identity

Staff Voices: Representing Native American Identity 934 618 Ivy Marsnik

At the age of 16, I ran away from the city to move to the White Earth Reservation in northwestern Minnesota. I always loved it up there. As children, we’d go every summer, and just about every weekend in between, to spend our days canoeing, ricing, and berry picking at my grandfather’s. We’d visit with the elders, explore the great outdoors, and care for one another in our community.

Looking back, I suppose it was the simple life that I ran back to.

Even at a young age, I knew working with children was my passion. Not long after my return, I found work in the early childhood education field providing home visits to families on the reservation. The families always viewed me as company, the socialization aspect equally as important for the parents and children that often lived 30 miles from their closest neighbors. It was not uncommon for my visits to run close to two hours long and conclude with talking about family and friends over a warm cup of coffee.

Life in the city is much different. Many native families come to Minneapolis for work and better access to quality education programs and health care centers for their families. But with so many great opportunities, families are constantly rushing and on the run to doctor appointments, parent activities at the school, extra classes and community events, you name it. For some families, finding an hour to set aside for a visit can be a challenge, but they make the time because like all parents, they want what’s best for their kids.

As natives, we also know that we need to do better for our children who are disproportionately unprepared to succeed in school.

  • Among Native American children in the state of Minnesota, only 61.9% were deemed ready for kindergarten last year, which is lower than any other racial or ethnic group.
  • Minnesota ranked 9th out of the 13 states reporting on 4th grade reading proficiency rates among Native American children.
  • Last year, Minnesota had nearly the worst high school graduation rate for Native American students in the nation with only 52% graduating on time.*

These dire statistics are important to highlight because all too often, America’s indigenous people are left out of conversations about closing the “achievement gap.” It is clear we must work to help our children. The first step is to inform parents in our community that these gaps exist and of the importance of starting early to build the foundational skills necessary to overcome them. Following a long history of discrimination, neglect, and abuse, we are recognizing as a community that it is time for us to speak up.


alisonAlison Dakota is a Way to Grow Family Educator. She currently works in Minneapolis providing family support and home visiting services to 30 families, 25 of which identify as Native American.

 


*Research presented in The State of Minnesota Public Education: A MinnCAN Research Snapshot, March 2016

    Your Name (required)

    Address

    City

    Zip

    Your Email (required)

    Phone

    Preferred contact method:
    EmailPhoneEither

    Available days:
    SunMonTuesWedsThursFriSat

    Time of day available:
    MorningAfternoonEvenings

    Services interested in:
    preschoolspecial projectsteen parentsadministrativeeventsother

    Opportunity interested in:

    Language(s) Spoken besides English:
    AmharicArabicHmongOromoSomaliSpanish

    Other languages spoken:

    Emergency contact (name, phone, relationship):

    Volunteer agreement (required):

    I understand that during the course of my volunteering at Way to Grow, I may come in contact with information that is deemed confidential. This includes, but is not limited to, personal information about Way to Grow participants. I understand that Way to Grow is required by law to keep this information confidential, and I will treat all information I come across as such unless I am told otherwise.

    I understand and agree that I am volunteering for Way to Grow at my own risk and request. I also give permission for the free use of my name, picture and voice in any broadcast, telecast, print account or any other account in any medium of the event being recorded.


    I Accept

    Additional Message: