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Our children’s health and education: the best investment we can make

Our children’s health and education: the best investment we can make 2560 1707 Ivy Marsnik

“It was an accident,” Arthur J. Rolnick, Ph.D. says of coming to focus much of his economic research on children. “Since we [at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis] found the way states conventionally promoted economic development to be fundamentally flawed, we argued that we have to rethink economic development in this country. That led us to ask: What sort of policies and what sort of public investments were best to promote local economies?”

“If done right, high-quality, parent focused, early childhood education programs that begin at birth can make an extraordinary difference in outcomes for both the child and society.”

On a quest to answer that question, Art Rolnick and Rob Grunewald, his co-author and colleague, soon found themselves reading up on longitudinal studies of early childhood education programs and the latest brain development research. The evidence to support how critical the first years of life are in building a successful future was astounding.

What they found were very high public returns when investment in early childhood began at birth, and high-quality, parent focused programming was maintained through the preschool years. As the longitudinal studies suggested, when master level early childhood teachers are combined with regular home visits and increased parent engagement, children impacted are much less likely to repeat first grade or be placed in special education. Furthermore, they are much more likely to read at grade level by the third grade, complete high school, get a good job, raise a family, and much less likely to commit a crime.

“Essentially, we can show that if we do a much better job in getting a child ready for school, that child is going to perform much better through his or her life.”

“We have to rethink economic development, think of it in terms of investing in human capital,” Art explains. “And when you go down that road, and when you start to think about how important worker development and the quality of a workforce is, it leads you to early childhood development, birth to five– that’s where we need to be investing.”


Hear more from Arthur J. Rolnick, Ph.D. at the Way to Grow Shine Celebration, Friday, October 27. Art, a Senior Fellow and Co-Director of the Human Capital Research Collaborative at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. Art is working to advance multidisciplinary research on child development and social policy. He previously served at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis as a senior vice president and director of research and as an associate economist with the Federal Open Market Committee. Art’s work on early childhood development has garnered numerous awards, including those from the George Lucas Educational Foundation and the Minnesota Department of Health, both in 2007; he was also named 2005 Minnesotan of the year by Minnesota Monthly.

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Paying it Forward

Paying it Forward 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Way to Grow is deeply thankful for the financial support we receive. In fact, gifts allow us to work with the most isolated families in Minneapolis, and ensure that children are born healthy, stay healthy, and are prepared for school. Last year, we served 2,432 children and parents through 11,563 home visits. With your continued support, we can reach even more families whose futures will be brighter because of your generosity.

Want to join our family of supporters? It’s easy! You can choose from several ways to give that will fuel our mission.

Go online: One of the quickest ways to give in a digital world is to use our website. With a few keystrokes, you can choose to make a one-time gift, or set in motion a recurring gift that happens automatically each month on the day you choose. Either way, we are grateful for your support which helps us serve families and children.

Mail us a check: This classic method works for many! Simply send your gift to Way to Grow, 125 West Broadway, Suite 110, Minneapolis, MN 55411. You’ll put a smile on our faces when the mail arrives.

Shares of stock: If you own shares of stock that have grown in value – and that you’ve held for one year or longer – it may be tax-wise to donate them directly to Way to Grow, rather than sending a check. Here’s why. First, you’ll avoid paying capital gains tax on the shares’ growth, and so will Way to Grow, which receives 100% of the proceeds tax-free as a charitable organization. Second, you’ll enjoy a tax deduction for the full fair market value of the shares, even if they cost you a lot less. Third, you can make a meaningful gift without tapping out your checkbook. For details, call us at (612) 874-4740.

IRA Charitable Rollover: This way of giving arose in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, allowing Americans to tap their retirement savings to help others. If you are age 70-1/2 or older (an age when Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from IRAs must begin), you can re-direct your RMD to Way to Grow directly from your IRA. This bypasses your federal tax return, so it is not counted as income, nor deducted as a gift. Even better, you are not limited to sharing just your RMD; instead, individuals are allowed to give up to $100,000 each year out of their IRA to qualified charities. Way to Grow would be delighted to receive your IRA Rollover Gift! Check with your tax advisor or call us at (612) 874-4740.

Whichever form your gift takes, you have our heartfelt thanks for generously supporting our vision to ensure that every child has an opportunity to succeed in school and in life.

You are Your Child’s Best Advocate

You are Your Child’s Best Advocate 2560 1700 Lisa Bryant

One of the most important responsibilities of a parent is to advocate for your child—being their cheerleader on the sidelines, a defender against their opponents, and a voice when their words seem muted. Every day, you strive to provide your child with the best so that their journey in life is a little less bumpy, with fewer twists and turns. As a parent, you have a profound impact on their success. A study on parent involvement concluded that a single overriding factor—parent involvement—determined a baby’s future opportunities for success or failure in life (Tough, 2016). Similarly, studies conducted on student achievement suggest that a student with parents who are involved in their education is more likely to do better in school, have better social and behavioral skills, stay in school, and graduate (Henderson and Mapp, 2002).

Your child’s years in school are when they need you to be an advocate the most. Each school year, they will meet a new teacher, navigate the teacher’s expectations, adapt to a new classroom culture, get to know new classmates, and participate in after-school activities. School will demand your child be skilled at getting along and working with others, negotiating, working hard, and coping with failure and success. With your help, your child’s school career—from pre-k to graduation—will be some of the best years!

Advocating for your child is not always easy, but it shouldn’t be avoided. The key to being an effective advocate is to maintain a strong relationship with your child, understand how to approach the teacher or school administration, and recognize when to intervene on your child’s behalf. Way to Grow suggests you follow these four key guidelines to empower you as a parent to effectively advocate for your child:
 

1. Establish positive, consistent lines of communications at home

As a parent, you are your child’s first and foremost teacher. Formative years at home teach your child how to interact with others and develop motor, language, and cognitive skills. These skills are best nurtured by positive, quality interactions and consistent communication with adults. Whether it is helping your child name their feelings, listening to a recap of their day, or talking out a problem, your everyday interactions should be built on a solid foundation of trust. When a home environment is based on strong communications and supportive relationships, your child will feel safe coming to you when they have a problem at school. You can’t be with them every moment of the day, but you can be the person they go to after the school bell rings.
 

2. You are the expert when it comes to your child

No one knows your child better than you. When school starts, it is your job as a parent to make teachers, coaches, and school administrators aware of your child’s special talents and skills, as well as any needs or special considerations they may have. At home, children can receive one-on-one support, but in school they are one of many. While teachers and staff work hard to ensure every student succeeds in the classroom, nothing can replace the insight of a parent. By working with school staff, you can ensure your child is able to utilize their strengths in school, as well as get vital support when needed. Children are more likely to gain confidence and thrive in school when they employ their talents and have their needs supported by the adults in their life—parents and teachers alike.
 

3. Develop and maintain communication channels within your child’s school

Establish a good rapport with your child’s teacher, school principal, and any other administrator who may be able to provide you with insight or advice. If you only rely on parent nights or parent-teacher conferences to start the conversation, you may be missing out on ways to help your child excel. Schedule meetings often to meet with teachers and the principal, and remain in constant communication with them regarding your child. The beginning of the school year is a great time to ask about the best way to communicate, whether by phone, email, or in-person.

Beyond academics, try getting involved with the regular goings-on of the school and take time to learn the school culture. Consider volunteering in the classroom or at events to increase your involvement. In doing so, you will also meet other parents, enhance your relationship with school staff, and become even more connected to your child’s educational experiences.

Check with your school to see how you can be involved. Remember, you don’t have to do it all—commit to something that fits in your schedule and is best suited to your own skill set. Some activities may include:

  • Attend Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) meetings
  • Become an in-classroom parent volunteer or chaperone a field trip
  • Volunteer to be a tutor or mentor
  • Help with a major in-school project
  • Attend your child’s after-school activities
  • Volunteer for evening events
  • Assist with a fundraiser or organize a drive

 

4. Create a network of other parent advocates

There’s power in numbers. To strengthen your ability to be an advocate for your child, find and connect with other parents who are also advocates. Identify a time to meet as a group and meet often to discuss and learn from one another. Together you can talk about strategies that may or may not have worked an identify teachers and administrators willing to support parent advocates. By building a network, not only will you gain new perspectives and allies, you may also find a greater support system for yourself as a parent. Your child doesn’t need to be the only one to make friends at school!

Advocating for your child takes time and looks different for every parent. As you develop new tools and resources, nurture relationships with teachers and school administrators, and increase your visibility within the school setting, remind yourself that you don’t have to do it all. Like your child, you are your best self when you are playing to your strengths. That said, remember to stay involved! Always keep in mind, you are the first and foremost advocate for your child—you are the key to their success throughout school, as well as in life.

 
Additional Resources:
Looking to make a greater impact on your child’s education? Check out and download a couple of our other resources for parents below and then connect with Way to Grow to receive updates on our programming!

 
References
Henderson, A.T. and Mapp, K.L. (2002). A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family and Community Connections on Student Achievement. Southwest Educational Development Laboratory.

Tough, Paul. “To Help Kids Thrive, Coach Their Parents,” New York Times, May 22, 2016, p. SR1.

Way to Grow announces its participation in the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program

Way to Grow announces its participation in the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program 667 553 Lisa Bryant

MINNEAPOLIS—July 26, 2017—Way to Grow, the Twin Cities’ preeminent leader for early childhood and K-3rd grade education has announced today that it is participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and has begun to serve meals at no separate charge to children enrolled at Way to Grow Preschool Pals (Center for Families), 3333 4th Street North, Minneapolis, Minn. 55412.

CACFP is designed to improve the diets of young children and increase the opportunity for children to eat a variety of nutritious foods.  The program is operated by the Minnesota Department of Education, and meals meet nutrition standards established by the United States Department of Agriculture.

In the operation of USDA Child Nutrition programs, no participant will be discriminated against because of race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity.

For more information about Way to Grow’s participation in the Child and Adult Care Food Program, please contact: Craig Allen, Education Coordinator at 612-874-4740, or callen@mplswaytogrow.org

To learn how you can help us do more, visit www.waytogrow.org, or call (612) 874-4740. Way to Grow is headquartered at 125 West Broadway Avenue, Suite 110, Minneapolis, Minn. 55411.

 

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.

Seeking Preschool Literacy Tutors

Seeking Preschool Literacy Tutors 500 334 Ivy Marsnik

If you are passionate about education and early childhood education, join us at Way to Grow! You can make a difference in the lives of young children by becoming a Minnesota Reading Corps Preschool Literacy Tutor. Tutors will work with our students in small groups and one-on-one using specific interventions developed by educational experts to develop early literacy skills. Previous experience working with children is not a requirement – Minnesota Reading Corps and Way to Grow will provide all the training you will need in addition to ongoing coaching support throughout your 11-month term of service.

Way to Grow has three part-time Reading Corps positions open for the 2017-2018 school year including one at our South Minneapolis preschool at Urban Ventures and two at our North Minneapolis preschool at Center for Families. The two positions in North Minneapolis could be combined to make one full-time position for the right candidate.

A Day in the Life

View the Job Description and Apply

Preschool Literacy Tutor – Way to Grow Preschool P.A.L.S. (South)
Preschool Literacy Tutor – Way to Grow Preschool Pals (North)

Contact:

Craig Allen
Way to Grow Education Coordinator
Minnesota Reading Corps Internal Coach
Cell: 612-267-6283
callen@mplswaytogrow.org

South Preschool Earns Full Accreditation and Highest Possible Rating

South Preschool Earns Full Accreditation and Highest Possible Rating 2560 1707 Ivy Marsnik

Congratulations are in order! Way to Grow Preschool P.A.L.S., located in South Minneapolis, was recently awarded both NAEYC Accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and a Four-Star Parent Aware rating! Joining our already nationally accredited and highly-rated Preschool Pals classroom in North Minneapolis, our South education team developed a classroom portfolio to provide supporting program evidence based on high-quality early learning standards connecting practice, policy, and research.

Earning full NAEYC Accreditation reflects the high quality programming provided in Way to Grow’s center-based preschool classrooms when assessed on areas including student and family relationships, early learning curriculum, teaching methods, school-readiness assessments, health, community relations, physical environment, and leadership. Both the NAEYC Accreditation and a Four-Star Parent Aware rating reflect that Way to Grow is committed to implementing best practices and quality care in the areas of early development and school readiness for Minnesota children and their families as they prepare for kindergarten and beyond.

New Graduate, Restored Hope

New Graduate, Restored Hope 2560 1441 Ivy Marsnik

One year ago, Alicia came to us seeking help for herself and her 7 month old daughter. Struggling with the recent loss of her sister, Alicia had dropped out of school and lacked the confidence she needed to persevere. Knowing that she needed to finish high school, Alicia was as confused by the process as she was terrified of failure.

Alicia enrolled in Way to Grow and began attending our monthly Dream Tracks program. She blossomed. After getting a job at a local grocery store and finding a child care program for her young daughter, Carmen, Alicia’s Way to Grow Family Educator, encouraged Alicia to find out how many credits she needed in order to graduate. “I left that responsibility up to her,” Carmen says. “She was elated when she found out she only needed one or two credits. Once we knew that, we got to work setting up a plan.”

With Carmen’s help, Alicia enrolled in MNIC Unity’s diploma program. A few months later, before her family, friends, and support system, Alicia walked across the stage to accept her high school diploma. Acknowledging the life-changing experience, Alicia explains, “When my sister passed, I didn’t think I could graduate. I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m not making it.’ Then, people encouraged me like David [my teacher at MNIC] and my [Way to Grow] advocate.”

Her new diploma carries new hope. Alicia plans to go on to technical college for administrative assistance, continuing to set goals for herself and her family. “It has been a metamorphosis,” Carmen explains. “Over the last year, Alicia has grown more confident, open, motivated, positive, and best of all, happy again. We are both very excited for what’s next.”

Rallying for Minnesota’s Children – Advocacy for Children Day 2017

Rallying for Minnesota’s Children – Advocacy for Children Day 2017 960 638 Ivy Marsnik

Advocacy for Children Day celebrates early learning and gives parents, teachers, early care and education professionals, and communities from across the state an opportunity to stand up and be a voice for children. Led by the MinneMinds coalition, which Way to Grow is actively involved in, our staff and several families we serve are gathering at the capitol in support of equitable, child-centered, parent-directed, mixed delivery approaches to state policies affecting families and children. The 2017 policy agenda MinneMinds leads includes:

Ensuring Quality Care Through Parent Aware
  • Fully fund Parent Aware to continue the expansion of high‐quality early learning programs throughout Minnesota.
  • Support existing rated providers and grow from 3,000 programs to 4,400.
  • Ongoing support for rated providers and implementation of improvement strategies, with a priority on stronger recognition and incorporation of cultural competency.
Increasing Access to Quality Early Learning Through Scholarships
  • Increase funding and access of State Early Learning Scholarships for in need children birth‐to five to attend high quality early childhood development programs (Prioritize children with highest needs, including those facing homelessness and in foster care).
  • Complete efforts to fully‐fund scholarships for low‐income 3‐ and 4‐year‐olds to serve 7,000 new, at risk preschoolers.
  • Add funding for high priority groups for 0 to 2‐year‐olds (siblings, homeless, foster care, child protection) to serve 3,400 new, at risk babies and toddlers.
Assisting More Families In Need Through Home Visiting Programs
  • Increase access and funding for targeted home visiting programs to include 7,000 children in high poverty.
  • Provide community‐led solutions to high‐risk families to help stabilize them and give them a strong start.

What You Can Do

Attend the Rally

Join over 500 fellow early learning advocates as we fill the rotunda at the Minnesota State Capitol on Thursday, March 2, 2017. Activities for children begin at 9 am with the rally beginning at 9:30 am. From 11 am – 4 pm legislators will be available for visits.

Register Here

Submit a Letter and Children’s Art

Whether or not you are able to attend the rally, we encourage you to submit a letter to your senators and representatives and tell them why our state’s youngest learners matter to you. Greater Twin Cities United Way  will collect children’s artwork to accompany the letters submitted.

Mail your artwork to:
Lulete Mola
Greater Twin Cities United Way
404 S 8th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55404

Download Letter Template

Meet with Legislators

Meeting with legislators can be easier than you think. Follow these simple steps:
1) Find out who your legislators are
2) Set up a time to meet
3) Identify your main message and a personal story supporting that message
4) Follow these tips for holding a successful meeting

    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.


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