Way to Grow

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!

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

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

2014 In Review

2014 In Review 150 150 Ivy Marsnik
In 2014, we:

  • Had 88% of all Way to Grow preschoolers pass kindergarten readiness assessments for the second year in a row.
  • Opened our second preschool in South Minneapolis (Preschool P.A.L.S) at Urban Ventures, with a focus on educating both preschoolers and parents.
  • Celebrated serving our first cohort of third graders completing our Great by Eight program expansion.
  • Expanded our health and nutrition program resulting in both parents and children incorporating more nutritious food in their meal planning while increasing healthy behaviors.

Consider including Way to Grow in your year-end giving and make a tax-deductible donation today.

Donate now to put more parents and children on the path to success in 2015.

Thank you and happy new year!

Together, we will make a difference.

Mayor Hodges, Cradle to K Cabinet Announce Cabinet Will Issue Report with 2015 Recommendations

Mayor Hodges, Cradle to K Cabinet Announce Cabinet Will Issue Report with 2015 Recommendations 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

October 10, 2014 (MINNEAPOLIS) — Mayor Betsy Hodges announced Thursday that her Cradle to K Cabinet is working on a year-end report which will outline policy, legislative, and collaboration recommendations for 2015. The Cabinet has been meeting since spring, when Mayor Hodges convened the full first meeting of the cabinet.

“The members of my Cradle to K Cabinet have shown exceptional dedication to our goal of closing the achievement gap in the city’s education system by eliminating disparities for children from prenatal to three years old,” said Mayor Hodges. “The discussions, collaboration, and work happening at this table is focused on our opportunity to create equity with our kids – I’m heartened by the energy of the Cabinet. I feel confident our year-end report will be comprehensive and forward-thinking. I look forward to that report guiding the Cradle to K Cabinet’s work in 2015.”

Since the first meeting, the cabinet has identified three objectives members are focused on. The cabinet has organized members into committees, each one focused on a different objective.

“I’m pleased we’ve been able to focus in on three concrete goals,” said Carolyn Smallwood, Co-Chair of the Cradle to K Cabinet and Executive Director of Way to Grow. “Those goals are that all children receive a healthy start rich with early experience to prepare them for successful early education and literacy; all children will be stably housed; and all children will have continuous access to high quality child development programming.”

“Each committee is looking at potential policy or legislative recommendations for each of these objectives,” said Peggy Flanagan, Co-Chair of the Cradle to K Cabinet and Executive Director of the Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota. “Some of those recommendations may be small changes at the city level, and some may require larger state legislation to achieve our goal. In January, we’ll begin working on those recommendations.”

The Cradle to K Cabinet will make its report public in early January. Flanagan and Smallwood joined Mayor Hodges Thursday at a media briefing to discuss the cabinet’s work. They were joined by: Gretchen Musicant, Chair of the Committee focused on Early Experiences; Mikkel Beckmen, Chair of the Committee focused on Stable Housing; Aaron Sojourner, member of the Committee focused on Continuous Access; and Richelle Hart-Peeler, a parent representative on the cabinet.

General Mills Foundation – Supporting Partner through 25 Years

General Mills Foundation – Supporting Partner through 25 Years 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

A Very Special Delivery

A Very Special Delivery 150 150 Way to Grow

Yesterday, we received a very special delivery: a collection of bilingual board books in Spanish and Somali! The books were purchased with funds raised through our yearly Santa Claus appearance at Magers and Quinn Booksellers in Uptown, Minneapolis.

Pictured above: Gary Mazzone, ‎Outreach & Sales Director at Magers and Quinn Booksellers; Elizabeth Fields; Jenny Donovan; Carolyn Smallwood, Executive Director of Way to Grow; Carrie Johnson, Director of Early Education at Way to Grow; Melissa Meyer, Annual Fund & Communications Manager.

Thanks to Magers and Quinn and the United Educators Credit Union for their continued support of Way to Grow!

Talking to Your Baby Early and Often

Talking to Your Baby Early and Often 150 150 Way to Grow

A recent Associated Press article highlights the importance of the work that our Family Educators have been doing for years. During home visits, Way to Grow’s Family Educators work to encourage our parents to talk to their children (regardless of their age) throughout the day. This exposure to words and conversations has a tremendous impact on a child’s development.

As writer Lauran Neergaard reports, “New research shows that both how much and how well parents talk with babies and toddlers help to tune the youngsters’ brains in ways that build crucial language and vocabulary skills — a key to fighting the infamous “word gap” that puts poor children at a disadvantage at an even younger age than once thought.”

To read the full article from Friday’s Star Tribune, click here.

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!

Beyond School Hours

Beyond School Hours 150 150 Way to Grow

Next week, Way to Grow’s Executive Director, Carolyn Smallwood, and Director of Early Education, Carrie Zelin Johnson, will travel to Atlanta to give a presentation on our home visiting model to attendees of the Beyond School Hours conference. Now in its 17th year, the Beyond School Hours conference is one of the nation’s largest and most inspiring education conferences. We’re excited to be returning for the second year in a row to present two breakout sessions.

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