Fox Family Feature: Way to Grow

Written By Emily Cole-Jones, Fox Advancement Director of Institutional Support

“A lot of our families feel invisible because of their social status, and one of our jobs at Way to Grow is to change that. I think all of us have felt invisible at one point or another in our lives. Sometimes, all we have to do is take a look, open our eyes, and touch somebody else—care about somebody else—to make a difference. Everybody is somebody. I believe in our families, because I know that if they are given a helping hand—and remember, everybody needs at helping hand at some point—they can do wonders.” –Carolyn Smallwood, Chief Executive Officer

Way to Grow is one of many extraordinary Twin Cities nonprofits that we at Fox Advancement have the privilege of calling our client. A pioneer in early education and home visiting services, Way to Grow has been working tirelessly for over 30 years to address persistent education and health disparities for the most isolated families in our community, recognizing that educational achievement is impossible without a safe, stable, healthy home and access to high-quality early childhood care and education. Way to Grow builds a supportive educational pipeline for children from birth through age 8 (third grade), ensuring that children are born healthy, stay healthy, and are prepared for school.


Through its cornerstone Great By Eight intensive home visiting program, families in Minneapolis, Brooklyn Park, and Brooklyn Center are achieving outcomes that demonstrate the effectiveness of this holistic, evidence-based, multi-generational model. In 2019, Way to Grow served 581 families through 8,412 home visits; 90% of Way to Grow children entering kindergarten were deemed ready for school; 92% of K-3 children made improvements on grade-level assessments; 96% of parents attended a parent teacher conference; and 96% of pregnant women reported a healthy birth weight.

The effectiveness of Great By Eight is rooted in Way to Grow’s deep cultural competence. Program staff, called Family Educators, culturally and linguistically reflect the families they serve, speaking 11 languages. Among Way to Grow families, 97% are families of color, and 70% speak a language other than English in the home. Family Educators build long-term relationships with these families, and are often the only trusted outside resource families turn to during times of need or crisis.


COVID-19 and recent social unrest have illuminated the challenges and disparities already experienced by many of Way to Grow’s families in Minneapolis, Brooklyn Park, and Brooklyn Center. The programs and services Way to Grow provides, as well as the systems change efforts underway through participation on several area coalitions and advocacy groups, are critical to ensuring equitable educational outcomes are within reach for all children in our community.


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