Parent Advocate

Inspiring Opportunity and Building Legacy

Inspiring Opportunity and Building Legacy 2560 1700 Ken Story

Always driven and confident in her abilities, Mina graduated high school in 2010, ready to continue her schooling. However, a year later she found it difficult to balance her new motherhood with her education, so she put school on hold to raise her young son, Itachi.

Early on, Mina discovered that Itachi was struggling with education fundamentals and lacked social skills. In 2013, her sister first mentioned Way to Grow, but Mina was skeptical. “I thought I didn’t need help and that this meant I was doing something wrong as a mother,” she explains.

After suffering the tragic loss of her second child shortly after birth, Mina enrolled in Way to Grow and gained the support of a Family Educator. “I learned that sometimes as a parent you don’t know it all, and Way to Grow is there to help further your skills to improve your child’s life,” she recalls. Itachi entered Way to Grow’s Preschool P.A.L.S. the following year and flourished in his new learning environment, surpassing Mina’s expectations.

Way to Grow was an asset to Mina and her family, but it also taught her that as a parent she had to advocate for her child and be active in their education. For example, she saw a change in her interactions during parent-teacher conferences. “At first I was uncomfortable. It’s easy to just show up, get the report, and leave,” Mina explains. “I learned how ‘what to ask’ translates into ‘what more I can do for my child.’ It really put emphasis on the value of being proactive in my child’s education.”

Continuing that proactive momentum, Mina decided to become one of Way to Grow’s strongest parent champions by attending multiple events and hearings at the State Capitol, as well as speaking on behalf of Way to Grow’s families at the annual Children’s Day at the Capitol. “It is always about coming from a place of ‘yes’ when it comes to being proactive in early education. There is always something to do,” Mina shares.

Inspired by the growth and development of her son, Mina decided to return to school, and in 2017 she completed the community health worker program at Summit OIC and became a certified nursing assistant. Mina has since joined Way to Grow’s staff as a new Family Educator. Congratulations, Mina!

Empowering Parent Champions

Empowering Parent Champions 1449 948 Susan Cossette

Our parents want to have their voices heard at the school level and beyond, yet many do not have the resources, support, or confidence to do so. We consistently hear that parents want to know whether their child is enrolled in the best school for them or how to partner with the school to communicate about their child’s education. We also know that there are specific community voices that need to be heard, such as a call for culturally appropriate education for African American, Native American, Hmong, and Somali communities. Yet in order to be empowered to speak up and be heard, our families must first become more educated and engaged in education, policy, and advocacy. Way to Grow is working to do just that.

Launched in August 2017, with funds from MN Comeback, Way to Grow’s My Voice Matters initiative amplifies the voices of some of the most isolated families in Minneapolis and works to address the lack of information available to parents. A parent engagement and advocacy initiative, My Voice Matters involves parents in advocacy and empowers them to make the best choices for their children. Through our Parent Champion Workshop Series, field trips, resources, and additional experiences to familiarize parents with the legislative process and advocacy, My Voice Matters aims to create a lasting impact on the lives of our families and children.

For the past year, Way to Grow has been working with key partners—including the Children’s Defense Fund, Joyce Preschool, MinneMinds, Northside Achievement Zone, Think Small, Greater Twin Cities United Way, and the YWCA—to assist in planning, family recruitment, and workshop facilitation. Together we are making the concerns and questions of our families heard at the school level and all the way to the Capitol.

“I am so impressed with parents showing up at public policy events and using the skills they learned in our trainings,” says Way to Grow Program Director Megan McLaughlin. “It’s so exciting to watch parents who feel they don’t have a voice become champions for not only their children, but for issues that face all young children.”

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