Success Stories – Way to Grow

Carolyn Smallwood – CEO

Megan McLaughlin – Program Director

Way to Grow was founded with one promise: to work every day to change the lives of some of our most vulnerable neighbors.

Way to Grow supports families with children from birth to age eight, and believes that every one of their neighbors is a valued member of our community, and is committed to continuing to fight for education and economic equity for all. As the late Senator Paul Wellstone said, “We all do better when we all do better.” After 29 years, Way to Grow has reached over 68,000 children and their families across Minneapolis. Through the hard work and dedication of staff, community partners, donors, and volunteers, they have helped stabilize families, built networks of services, and prepared children for school.

Effective early learning starts in a stable home. While Way to Grow parents are committed to helping their children succeed in life, overwhelming economic and social barriers often stand in their way. Way to Grow Family Educators get to know each family and work with them to identify their needs, and Resource Advocates work closely with clients to address the challenges they may face by connecting them to critical services. In addition, 29 students receive scholarships to attend a Way to Grow preschool.

Way to Grow’s programming includes the Dream Tracks Teen Parenting Program, which helps educate and prepare parents ages 15–21 for a successful life. Dream Tracks addresses parenting challenges, provides motivation and emotional empowerment, helps parents maintain a focus on academic success and career goals, and provides information on sexual and reproductive health. Additionally, teen parents receive regular home visits and are invited to participate in all events and activities. Not only do these youngest parents feel supported and part of a community, there are fewer repeat pregnancies.


These services exemplify Home Visiting at its most effective. We at MinneMinds are proud to highlight Dream Tracks among Way to Grow’s notable contributions. Last year, Way to Grow saw a number of significant accomplishments:

  • 87% of preschoolers were prepared for kindergarten
  • 100% of teen parents did not have a repeat pregnancy
  • 91% of parents attended a parent-teacher conference
  • Worked with over 100 community partners to provide basic needs and enrichment opportunities
  • Gave 2,353 referrals for basic needs and services were given
  • Family Educators reached more than 2,400 individuals, including more than 1400 children through 11,665 home visits.
  • Throughout the year Way to Grow’s team provided critical support to over 760 families.

Whether they are providing books to build a home library or making referrals to housing opportunities, they are there for families every step of the way. We at MinneMinds are proud to advocate for highly successful and effective programs like Way to Grow.