Tynisha LaDuke's entry into kindergarten didn't seem like the kind of event that would get an article in the newspaper. A healthy, eager-to-learn five-year-old, she was exactly the kind of student every teacher hopes for. Yet Tynisha's success in preparing to enter school was worthy of attention because her family had to overcome some tough circumstances to get her there.
Tynisha's mother gives much of the credit for her success to Minneapolis' Way To Grow Program, a neighborhood-based project to improve the prospects of the city's young children. As Tynisha's mother put it, "I grew up seeing drinking and violence in my family and I wanted a different life for my child." Working through community centers in eight locations, the Way To Grow programs offer families help in securing health care, housing, and employment, as well as many other services so their children will be ready to learn when they get to school.
Who is served?
Way To Grow (WTG) serves pregnant women and families with children age six and under. WTG emphasizes universal access to its community centers. However, a significant proportion of those served are Medicaid-eligible families with multiple problems in the areas of health, housing, employment, and family stability. WTG service centers are located in 8 of the city's 11 planning districts.
School readiness is more than just knowing one's alphabet—it is about a child having the emotional, social, and physical skills to function in the classroom. This does not happen with any one program but with a caring team of empowered parents, community members, and professionals working together to ensure children reach their full potential."—Sharon Sayles Belton, Mayor of Minneapolis and Chair, Minneapolis Way to Grow