FutureSmart Taught Me How to Achieve My Dream Life

Today we’re featuring a guest post from student Mateja C who explains how FutureSmart helped her learn tricks for shopping wisely and putting that saved money toward college planning. Congrats to Mateja for being one of our scholarship recipients!

                         Mateja C

Student: Mateja C
Teacher: Andrea Konrath
School: Berlin Middle
State: Wisconsin
Sponsor: MassMutual Foundation

The FutureSmart course taught me how to achieve my dream of being a nautical engineer. I love ships and the ocean, especially when I was really young (I wanted to be a pirate), and would love even more to one day design ships. Now my dream could become a reality. The first step to reaching that dream would be to get a college education. College is expensive, which means you have to find ways to save as soon as possible, along with researching different colleges that have a degree in the field I want.

FutureSmart taught me ways to save money on purchases. Just like the kid remodeling his bedroom in the course, I would have to first find price discounts and coupons. That way I can make sure I am getting the best deals. I also know how to tell how biased the source is, which is an important skill. In addition, FutureSmart taught me to make sure I am getting the quality I am paying for. An example within the course helped me see that if something is especially cheap, chances are it is not worth paying less for, since you may spend more in the long run. Thanks to what I learned at FutureSmart, I can put that money towards college, rather than useless items and unnecessary money spent because of lack of saving knowledge.

Saving for a good education isn’t all that I learned from completing the FutureSmart course, though. I am learning how to speak in Norwegian right now because I want to travel to Norway someday. In the FutureSmart course I learned to create a budget for my trip. Unless, of course, if I was going to live in Norway. Then I would just need to save for a plane ticket. The FutureSmart course educated me on how to plan financially for my trip. Furthermore, FutureSmart taught me ways to save the money: Saving money from my job(s), and, as I earlier stated, not spending unnecessary money.

FutureSmart also taught me how to achieve my dream life. Although I have no elaborate plans for my dream life, what I learned would still help enormously. I know necessities before luxuries. An example for what I learned would be: My first priority while going shopping would be a lamp to better do my homework by and my last priority would be a brand-name sweatshirt. Most kids can’t tell the difference between their needs and wants. The FutureSmart course taught me not to fall into that category of kids. Even though my dream life is simple and doesn’t involve anything overly elaborate, I can teach others what I learned. If someone was to say, “I need to buy a house so I have some sort of shelter,” they’d be completely correct and I would not contradict them. But had they said, “I need to have the absolute largest mansion made completely out of gold and silver,” I would correct them in saying that is a want, not a need. If they had taken the FutureSmart course, though, I would not have to even tell them that, since they’d have learned it already.

Congratulations – Spring Scholarship Contest Winners!

A huge thanks to the 1,100+ students who participated in the 529 College Savings Scholarship competition! We loved learning how EverFi’s financial education courses have had a positive impact on these students’ lives, and we look forward to sharing a few of those thoughtful and inspiring stories in the coming weeks.

Congratulations to the winners who will each receive a $1,000 529 College Savings Scholarship!

Miranda, Oliver Wendell Holmes High School, Texas
Natalie, Mammoth Heights Elementary, Colorado
Gina, Wallenpaupack Area High School, Pennsylvania
Edgar, Jefferson High School, Illinois
Lauren, Bradley Central High School, Tennessee

FutureSmart Taught Me to Create a Financial Plan for My Future

Today we’re featuring a guest post from student Grace K who shares how FutureSmart helped her see that being prepared with a financial plan will allow her to achieve her ambitious career goals. Congrats to Grace for being one of our scholarship recipients!

Grace K

Student: Grace K
Teacher: Danielle Cunningham
School: Falls Lake Academy
State: North Carolina
Sponsor: MassMutual Foundation

“You said you have a dream…That dream…Make it come true! Make your wonderful dream a reality, and it will become your truth! If anyone can, it’s you!” -Pokémon

My name is Grace, and I am currently a student at Falls Lake Academy. Being a student means that college and real world experience are not far away, so there is a great encouragement to look towards my future in order to be well prepared. The eloquent quote above elucidates the importance of setting goals and believing in where they can take you.

I have many goals, dreams, and aspirations, but I’m going to need tools to propel me towards success in my career, financials, and other important aspects of life. I recently acquired some tools from the online resource FutureSmart. FutureSmart taught me vital skills such as saving money for large expenses, choosing a career that is enjoyable and provides good benefits, and how to invest in your interests to maintain both a healthy financial life and life of personal achievement. 

My biggest dream is to one day win the Nobel Prize in Physics and to find a cure for diabetes and cancer. This is because cancer and diabetes have impacted my family directly and countless others. With such lofty goals, there will be many steps along the way to get there. The only way to have my dream to become a reality is to work hard and focus on getting a spectacular education.

To accomplish this goal, I used the FutureSmart Lesson #4 “Investing in You” to learn how to best prepare for schooling in the future. My dream school is Princeton University for undergraduate education and Harvard University for my doctoral and post-doctoral education. Being out of state, the tuition will be quite high, so saving now is very important. It is also vital to talk to my school counselor to figure out about what scholarships and financial aid will be available.

After college, my goal is to become a physicist for NASA. However, in planning my career as a physicist, I learned that it is important to make sure that my job has good benefits and insurance. Due to my health issues, medical insurance will be especially important.

For housing, my wish is to live in a nice house in an urban area and have both home and auto insurance. Insurance is something I learned about in FutureSmart Lesson #6: Your Financial Future, be prepared! If something unexpected were to happen, being prepared could save money that can be used in the future. My want for having a successful career and not have to worry about money dictates that it is imperative to begin saving now, especially for college and retirement. You cannot plan for everything in life, but it is necessary to be prepared for the things that can be controlled, such as financial management. These vital skills are ones that I learned from FutureSmart.

Learn more about the FutureSmart financial education course: https://everfi.com/k12/future-smart/

I Started a College Savings Account because of Vault

Today we’re featuring a guest post from Nebraska student Diandra P who shares how Vault – Understanding Money™ helped her develop the skills and confidence needed to make smart financial decisions. Congrats to Diandra for being one of our scholarship recipients!

Diandra P

Student: Diandra P
Teacher: Jackie Hinrichs
School: Giltner High School
State: Nebraska
Sponsor: Nebraska Educational Savings Plan Trust (NEST)

Many people have dreams for the future. Some kids want to grow up to be doctors, while others want to be firefighters. Personally, I want to go to college in a big city and eventually work as an editor for a popular newspaper or magazine.

But how many of us actually know how to reach our goals? It can be pretty confusing trying to navigate the adult world of money and life-changing decisions. Luckily, there’s a program out there to help us achieve our goals. It’s called Vault – Understanding Money. Through Vault, I learned about making responsible money choices, as well as about income and taxes.

Vault taught me a lot when it comes to making smart financial decisions. I now understand the importance of saving my money and tracking my spending habits, which are both important skills I am using to plan for the future. I set up a savings account to help pay for college, and am practicing writing down everything I buy to control my spending. I feel great knowing that I am already a step ahead of the game when it comes to paying for tuition.

I also learned about all the different people I have available to talk to when I have a question about money. I took the advice of Vault and talked to my parents about money, and I’m glad I did. The more financial information I get, the more confident I feel about my ability to be be successful in today’s society.

In addition to learning how to make monetary decisions, Vault taught me about earning income and taxes. Besides all of the ways I can earn money as an adult in a few years, the program also introduced me to ways that kids like me can make money now. I’m funding the savings account I set up for college by detasseling and babysitting, and I’ve encouraged my friends to do the same. Working has proved very worthwhile for me. Besides the weekly paychecks I receive, my jobs have rewarded me with many new friendships, connections, and life lessons, which I’m sure will prove mighty useful in years to come. Of course, the creators of Vault knew that you can’t teach kids about means of income without also teaching them about the major responsibility that comes along with earning money – paying taxes. Vault showed me that it is very important for me to pay taxes so that our country is still beautiful and safe when I’m a hard working, prosperous adult.

Maybe I’ll change my mind within the next few years and decide that I don’t want to be an editor, and that’s okay. I’m just a kid; I don’t have to have my whole life figured out already. But there’s one thing I am certain about – I know that whatever I decide to do, I’ll be well prepared to achieve my goals because of Vault, where I learned about making educated financial decisions, earning money and paying taxes.

Vault Taught Me How to Save and Spend Wisely

Today we’re featuring a guest post from student Shannon W who shares how the skills and knowledge she gained from Vault – Understanding Money™  will help her reach her financial goals of owning a house and supporting a family. Congrats to Shannon for being one of our scholarship recipients!

Student: Shannon W
Teacher: Kelly Barger
School: New Market Middle School
State: Maryland
Sponsor: MassMutual Foundation

It’s 5:00 P.M., and two kids come running toward their mother, a boy and a girl. They envelope her in hugs as she brings in the mail. There are bills to pay and catalogs for the kids. The father comes in, noticing the huge stack of bills piled up on the table. “I bet you’re glad we didn’t get that extra-large TV for the kids,” he says. The mother nods, realizing how her choice to save that money was a benefit to her financial stability. They had just bought a new house, one with a big backyard for the kids to play in, with a large, open kitchen for the mother to do her cooking in. The two kids were growing up fast, and the mother knew that this house, along with their new minivan, would be perfect to grow into. It had taken a long time, months maybe, to find the perfect house that fit their budget and their family. The mother was glad that she had paid attention in class all these years and knew how to make successful financial choices.

This is not just a story, this is how I see my future. I dream of having a happy life, being married, and having children. I know that these dreams can come true if I make good social and financial choices in the years to come. Completing the Vault – Understanding Money program in EverFi has been an essential step in my path to achieving my dream of owning a house and supporting a family.

Something that parents need to prioritize when involving money is the concept of wants and needs. In Vault, I learned that it is okay to spend money on things that you want every once in awhile, but it is essential to prioritize what you need to do with your money first. Needs include food, clothing, and shelter. Vault has greatly helped me understand the difference between these two financial factors.

Buying a house is a major step that causes difficulty for most young parents. I have the knowledge to help avoid these difficulties because of Vault. Vault taught me that you need to have good credit in order to get a loan on a house. I know that in order to buy a house, I will have to prove that I am a responsible borrower and can always pay for items on time.

In order to have enough money for a house, I will need to know how to stick to a budget. Vault showed me that a budget needs to list different needed expenses and how much money will be used on each expense. This organizational structure helps prevent overspending and will help me be more responsible with how I use my money. This is important to my future because if I am not careful with my money, I will not have enough money to buy the items that my family will need, such as a house, a car, healthy food, and clothing. Learning how to be financially literate on Vault has prepared me to use my money wisely to support my future.

 

Learn more about the Vault financial education program: https://everfi.com/k12/vault-understanding-money/

Interview with Harriet Sanford, President & CEO of the NEA Foundation

We recently sat down with Harriet Sanford to hear about her impressive 40-year career in education, and her current work supporting public teachers and students through the NEA Foundation. The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Harriet Sanford

Why did you go into education? 

I began my career – 40 years ago (sigh!) — as a public school teacher at Arbor Hill Elementary School, in Albany, NY, just blocks away from where I spent the first seven years of my life. Although I did not remain in the classroom for many years, my commitment to improving lives and underserved communities for the better never faltered. It has been a privilege to work in education philanthropy for the last 12 years, but make no mistake, it is educators who go to work in the trenches every day, not funders.

Neither my mother nor father completed their educations. Nonetheless, they were adamant that their children take advantage of all of the opportunities that a public education offers — both in and out of school time. They fully expected their children to pursue higher education and ensured that we could immerse ourselves in our studies, service, sports, and more. With many communities, schools and families just like mine facing insufficient resources, my work and the Foundation’s work is to do all that we can to ensure that every student has access to a high-quality education and finds his or her own joy in learning.

What is the NEA Foundation and what support does it give teachers?
The NEA Foundation is an independent, 501(C)3 public charity, created, in 1969 by educators for educators, to improve public education for all students. Highlights of support for teachers include:

  • Our Grants to Educators, distributed three times each year, fund educators’ creative and innovative classroom projects designed to prepare students for college, work, and life. Last year, our grants empowered more than 6,000 educators, reaching more than 186,000 students.
  • Our annual Awards for Teaching Excellence honor the challenging but crucial work that public school educators do every day. We reward outstanding educators who are shining examples of the millions of people who work tirelessly in America’s public schools, in service of students, but seldom hear how much we appreciate them.
  • Our Global Learning Fellowship, takes a group of educators abroad, such as on recent trip along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and other significant historical and cultural sites in Peru, as part of a year-long, cohort-based, professional development program. Participating educators return from their travels with fresh knowledge, skills and perspective needed to teach in the global age, and better equipped to deliver globally focused curriculum in their home schools and communities. Fellows also contribute to a growing, freely accessible, online collection of 195 lesson plans, accessed by peer teachers around the country more than 4,000 times.
  • We regularly produce issue briefs sharing the Foundation’s and our partners’ lessons learned on a wide range of topics and disseminating actionable information that helps educators overcome challenges to teaching and learning.

How do EverFi & the NEA Foundation work together?

The NEA Foundation and EverFi work together to increase educator and student access to technology and digital learning tools. We collectively strive to support critical skill areas that will enhance students’ ultimate academic and life success.

The partnerships currently supports NEA school districts across the country, providing free access to EverFi’s digital resources and accompanying professional development. Districts that have participated include Springfield, MA; Lee County, FL; and Prince George’s County, MD. Our partnership is leading us to work on more programming in STEM and to develop initiatives in social and emotional learning.

What encouragement would you give teachers who are working to integrate critical skills education into their classrooms?

My key piece of advice to educators, no matter what or whom they teach, is almost always the same: It takes “fierce” to battle your own self-doubt when you are the only one who seems to know that “good enough” is just not good enough for your students. Excellence is what you are after, and you are not going to let anything or anyone stand between your students and excellence. Bring “fierce” to the table every time. Be gentle, kind and caring with your students, but be fierce about their education.

 

Thanks to Harriet for giving us a glimpse into the important work she and the Foundation are doing to support public school education! If you’re interested in learning more about EverFi or our work with the NEA Foundation, reach out to Steve Sandak at steve@everfi.com.

Digital Learning: Preparation for Tomorrow

Just over a century ago, education theorist John Dewey cautioned that “if we teach today’s students as we taught them yesterday, we rob them of tomorrow.” At that point, industrialization was reorganizing cities, rural communities, and the role and realities of work. To prepare students for their futures, it made perfect sense that schooling should be reorganized as well.

Dewey’s observation continues to resonate nearly a century later. What engaged students five years ago is no longer sufficient to prepare them for success. Technology has changed the flow of information and the dynamics of community, with people spending an average of 4 hours per day on their mobile devices1. A 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study found that digital natives, the 15- to 24-year-old population with 5 or more years of online experience, are spending more than 8 hours per day connected to media2.

With 80% of middle-skill jobs now requiring technical skills3, preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s world will require great imagination and effort. Digital curriculum can be a powerful corrective force that reorganizes learning to meet students where they are and, more importantly, where they need to be. As teachers, schools, and districts become more sophisticated in their selection and use of digital learning tools, it is paramount curriculum and instructional designers continue to drive high quality, innovative approaches to learning.

As Christy Cheek, CTE Director for Buncombe County Schools in North Carolina suggests, “students today thrive through a combination of digital learning and face to face interaction. Being able to personalize a student’s education through digital learning brings numerous benefits and makes subject matter easier to understand and comprehend since students today are more comfortable with this platform.”

As with all new resources, the benefits are not always immediately realized. According to The Gates Foundation’s most recent “Teachers Know Best” survey, while 93 percent of teachers reported regularly using some form of digital tool to guide instruction, only 58 percent of teachers across all subjects found digital tools effective4. This gap between abundant use and effective use is what informs our work every day.

At EverFi, we have dedicated over 10 years towards understanding what makes digital resources effective and uniquely suited to teach meaningful skills. Every curriculum we develop, whether it’s a course on social-emotional learning or STEM literacy and career exploration, champions five core pillars:

  • Agency and Autonomy — Learning activities are personally meaningful and suited to individual interests.
  • Active Participation — The learner is fully involved in the learning experience, constructing meaning for herself.
  • Real-world Connections — Learning experience draws from realistic scenarios and applications.
  • Evidence-based Content — Pedagogy and instructional approach is grounded in research and best practice.
  • Ongoing Feedback — Instruction is both direct and just-in-time as students perform learning tasks.

EverFi’s pillars for digital learning are connected to a deeper belief that teaching and learning in the 21st century must not stop at traditional core academic skills. While Literacy and Math will always be important, we must educate the whole child5. According to Stefanie Wager of the Iowa Department of Education, we should be “thinking about a well-rounded education for all students and using digital learning to teach collaboration, creativity, communication and critical thinking in order to best meet the needs of students.”

Digital Learning is not a replacement for quality in-person instruction. Instead, it is a booster. This is why, in our own survey of more than 2,500 teachers last academic year, we found that:

  • 88% strongly felt that EverFi’s digital course content enhanced material they were teaching in the classroom.
  • 65% strongly felt that EverFi’s digital course content covered content that their students would not have otherwise seen.
  • 75% strongly believed their students were engaged in EverFi’s digital course content.

Good digital curriculum can bring clarity to difficult-to-teach concepts by representing them in multiple forms, increase engagement by using the same gamification mechanics that are so prevalent in students’ lives outside the classroom, and transform static topics into personally meaningful takeaways. Digital learning can take students further, faster, and in directions that are free for them to choose.

At EverFi, we look forward to the day when digital learning is both commonplace and universally effective. Until then, we will continue to develop courses that prepare students for the world of tomorrow.

Author:

Zach Wagner
EverFi Vice President
K-12 Content and Product Development

 

Sources:

1http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/informate-report-social-media-smartphone-use/
2Rideout, Victoria J., Ulla G. Foehr, and Donald F. Roberts. “Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8-to 18-Year-Olds.” Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (2010).
3http://burning-glass.com/research/digital-skills-gap/
4Teachers Know Best: What Educators Want from Instructional Tools 2.0, July 2016.
5Noddings, Nel. “What does it mean to educate the whole child?.” Educational leadership 63.1 (2005): 8.

 

 

Vault Helped Me Learn about Needs vs. Wants

Today we’re featuring a guest post from Chicago student Khloe W who shares how the skills and knowledge she gained from Vault – Understanding Money™  will help her reach her goal of graduating from college and earning her doctorate. Congrats to Khloe for being one of our scholarship recipients!

Khloe W

Student: Khloe W
Teacher: Linsey Rose
School: STEM Magnet Academy
State: Illinois
Sponsor: MassMutual Foundation

Imagine standing on a tall podium, thanking your family for supporting you from undergraduate to doctorate! That is how I want to be. There are many things that this EverFi Vault has taught me that will help me accomplish [my goals]. One big accomplishment that I want to do when I grow up is go to college, and be very successful. College is very important to me because I love getting an education and learning new things. Seeing my brothers and sisters go through college, I know it can be stressful thinking about failing many times. I also know that college costs a lot. EverFi Vault has prepared me to become a successful and responsible college student through the modules.

One important thing that Vault has taught me is about the different institutions that take care of money like brokerage firms, banks and credit unions. This is important to know when I go to college because I will need a bank account, since I will be away from my parents and have my own responsibilities. Also, I will need to know about these different parts because I will need to open up savings accounts for emergencies and pay bills to help my parents with the college funds.

Knowing that college is a lot of money, Vault has also taught me to be responsible and careful with the people I share my financial information with. EverFi says that financial information is very imperative and a key to success to life. If others can get access to it, things can do bad. For example, people can hack into your account and take your name, and spend your money, and that is not good. So, we have to be mindful about the information we share to others about our financial purposes. This is important to me and my dream to go to college because the world is cruel, and people can take advantage, be manipulative, and this can be food for thought as I continue to try to accomplish my dream.

One last thing that is very important and can affect my dream is how I spend and save my money. In college, I’ve heard many stories about the students being “broke”, and having no money to live off of, or not enough to buy necessities. I do not want this to happen to me and the way I can do that is to manage my money correctly. I will make a budget and make sure to document/establish my needs and wants. This is important because some people will focus on what they want to buy to fit in and do not focus on what they need to survive or succeed. Also, I can do this by getting a debit card. EverFi Vault has taught me the difference between the two [debit cards and credit cards] and for this situation a debit card is the best decision. Knowing that I can track my balance, see transactions and transfer/send money, this can help me better manage my money and what I spend rather than using cash.

In conclusion, this is how EverFi is helping me to with accomplish my dream to go to college. Vault is a very fun and interactive game that helped me better understand real problems in the real world.

Announcing the Scholarship Contest Winners!

The Winter Scholarship Contest ended last week with a record number of student submissions. From earning their doctorates to being nautical engineers, your students shared big dreams. We loved hearing about what they’ve learned through Vault and FutureSmart, and how financial education will make a difference in their lives. Each of our five student winners earned a $1000 college savings scholarship to help make their dreams a reality. Their stories will be featured on the EverFi Blog over the coming weeks. Congratulations winners!

Khloe W, STEM Magnet Academy, Illinois

Shannon W, New Market Middle School, Maryland

Grace K, Falls Lake Academy, North Carolina

Diandra P, Giltner High School, Nebraska

Mateja C, Berlin Middle School, Wisconsin

Want to submit more stories? The Spring Scholarship Competition is now open! We will be awarding another five $1,000 college savings scholarships to students in the U.S. who complete Vault, FutureSmart, or EverFi Financial Literacy, and who provide a short reflection by April 28th. This is a great capstone project for students and allows them to reflect on what they’ve learned. Click here to learn more.

Tabitha Herrin

TEACHER SPOTLIGHT: Tabitha Herrin

We recently sat down with Tabitha Herrin, a teacher at Stewarts Creek Middle School in Smyrna, TN, to hear how she uses EverFi’s resources in her classroom. This is part of our Teacher Spotlight series.

Tabitha Herrin

Tabitha Herrin

What impact have EverFi’s courses had on your students?

A parent told me that a student who used EverFi Financial Literacy in my class helped his older brother with his FAFSA form! I love hearing stuff like that.

I’ve also seen the impact of Healthy Relationships and Ignition – both hone in on all of the issues of this middle school age. Students connect with the courses on a personal level and really enjoy them.

What do you like best about the programs?

They fit around my curriculum so well. Also, they are very up to date. The kids don’t think it looks like something from the 80s or 90s – it’s very engaging for them.

What is your approach to implementation?

I use a half and half method – 10 students will get on the computers and the rest of the class will go through our written curriculum. We alternate back and forth each day.

What best practices would you share with other teachers?

  • I have new students every 9 weeks, so I created a PPT that has the login info on it. I also print off a paper version of the instructions that I put at their desks. The login process happens during one class period. Because of the half and half method, students may only get on the computers twice a week, but all will cycle through. They are welcome to work on it outside the classroom as well. Their EverFi grade is their main grade. Their username & password is their login information. That way, they can remember it year after year and just add their course code for each year.
  • I planned an engagement activity for Venture (the entrepreneurship course where students create their own food truck business). I reached out to several food trucks in the area and invited them to come to the school. It was a great way to support the local food trucks and provide an additional incentive to students who completed their business plan.
  • Another activity I created is “The World’s Largest Party with Ignition.” Once students finish Ignition, they apply what they’ve learned about how to use technology by planning a party for a country of their choosing – they love it! They have to research basic facts about the country. The population of the country is the attendance; the theme of the party is the native dress; famous landmarks are the venue. Students create a PPT and do a presentation at the very end. We also bring in the food aspect, and students have to make at least one recipe for the class. It takes about 2 class periods to do. It brings in a lot of excitement, and combines many aspects of what they’ve learned in Ignition including technology and research, and it helps them learn more about different cultures and practice their presentation skills.

Do you have any advice for other teachers considering using EverFi?

Don’t be overwhelmed by all of the resources! Try it out with one class/program, or do one program for all of your grade levels until you can get familiar with it and get your lesson plans done. Once you’ve done it all the first time, EverFi makes life so much easier!! Eventually, you can get to have a course per grade level.

Anything else you’d like to share about the program?

The customer support is amazing! If I have an issue or am having problems, I send an email and my Schools Manager connects me to the tech team and they help immediately. By the end of the class period I get a response back. Having that support is great! They even partnered up with my tech specialist at the school and we figured out how to fix a problem I was having. The support is probably one of my favorite aspects.

Tabitha, thank you for your commitment to equipping students with critical life skills!

Tabitha uses Vault for 6th grade, Healthy Relationships and Ignition in 7th grade, and Venture and FutureSmart in 8th grade.