Way to Grow

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!

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!

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