Talk Early, Talk Often – Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Guest Blogger

Sexual Assault Awareness MonthDid you know that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)? This nationally-recognized month is an opportunity to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate individuals and communities on how to prevent it.

Sexual violence is widespread and impacts every community. According to the latest U.S. based research from the CDC, one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives. The rates and impact of sexual violence are staggering, and one in six boys and one in four girls will experience a sexual assault before the age 18.

ItsTimeWordCloud-BilingualYes, we live in a day and age when there are many causes, colors, ribbons, and organizations that vie for the public’s limited attention. The importance of this month is not simply looking at the numbers, but it’s a time to consider your community, workplace, school, social circle, and family. Sexual violence happens and it impacts us all.

How do we build healthy relationships, families and communities? The SAAM 2013 campaign focuses on healthy sexuality and its connection to child sexual abuse prevention. All adults have a role in child sexual abuse prevention, and this year’s campaign encourages individuals and communities to support healthy childhood sexual development by talking early, talking often, and taking action.

Check out the SAAM Talk early, talk often video.

The call to action of talking early and often is one of many ways to participate in SAAM. The value of sharing information and opening dialogue is vital, but it’s also a time to challenge negative attitudes and myths that blame victims and excuse rape. Today is Denim Day, and it’s a great opportunity to join international voices in protest against misconceptions that surround sexual assault.

StartTalkingBubbleWhat is Denim Day? There is a rich history to this annual campaign that invites participants to wear denim and share the message that “There is NO excuse and NEVER an invitation to rape.” In 1998, an Italian Supreme Court decision overturned a rape conviction because the victim wore tight jeans.

Wearing jeans on this day has become more than a fashion statement. It’s an opportunity to challenge the many victim-blaming myths that still have power in our culture. It’s a powerful message, and a great opportunity to start conversations and dialogue.

Whether you’ve recently read a troubling headline, or if you are a parent, student, teacher, or community member who wants to see a healthier future, your voice can make a difference in preventing sexual violence. Beyond April and SAAM, it’s time to join the conversation.

Talk early, talk often!

Dispelling Myths About Teens and Money [Infographic]

The research is clear. Teenagers in the U.S. consistently demonstrate difficulty with successfully negotiating their finances and planning for future economic goals. However, the current investigation revealed that youth acknowledge the critical role that their parents and other adults play in mitigating some of this difficulty. Our research also found that many commonly held negative beliefs about teens, finance and parental impact run counter to how teens actually feel.

Whether intended or not, parent’s and other adults are on the front lines in helping shape key finance-related attitudes and behaviors in their children.

Download the latest EverFi Insight Report to learn more about the study.

Take a look at our latest Infographic:

Making Sense of Money on College Campuses

Emily Hester

Helping dollars make sense on a college campus isn’t easy, but it is vitally important. For staff at Louisiana State University in the Student Financial Management Center, we want students to not only be retained and to graduate, but we want to help equip them with the tools they need to be successful in the “real world” and we know that a big part of that comes from financial and money management education.

Student DebtFour years ago, one-third of LSU students identified their current financial situation as always or often stressful. What we know is that if a student is stressed about his or her finances then focusing on academics and other pieces of the college experience become exponentially more difficult. So, knowing the problem – we are working toward a solution. At LSU, this starts Day 1, or in reality Day 0 in their life as a LSU tiger. During each orientation session, incoming LSU students are educated about financial literacy and keeping a budget while they are students. Through teaching them about the resources and the reasons for overspending, we are trying to tackle the problem of lack of financial education head-on. This also comes with a focus on first year students. In partnership with First Year Experience, the LSU SFMC created a five-part series called First Year Finances helping students learn how to earn, spend, save, and repay money.


Click for Full Infographic

In addition, we spread the word of financial literacy through presentations to courses, student organizations, Greek organizations, and in the residence halls. Bottom line, if a group will let us talk to students about the importance of money management – we make ourselves available. However, probably the most intimate way we are helping teach financial literacy is through our one-on-one appointments. In the one-on-one setting we are able to help a student create a budget using their financial history and behaviors and answer questions specific to the student. We have found students to appreciate the one-on-one attention. Following an appointment one student said, “The staff in the SFMC was very warm and understanding of a typical college student’s financial woes. Whether you’re just entering college, or about to leave campus for the big, scary world, I felt confident that the advice she was giving me was not only helpful, but would be easy to implement and follow so that I could be financially stable during this scary time.“ We believe our background in student affairs helps us to better serve LSU students and help put financial concepts in easy to understand language.

Last, and certainly not least, the Student Financial Management Center focuses a significant amount of time and resources to sending students to resources on the web. We recognize that we cannot touch every student in person, but we do have the opportunity to reach thousands of students through the internet.

Finally, this year LSU took the leap into implementing Buttonwood: The LSU Financial Literacy Challenge for all first year and transfer students. For the first time in the four years of our existence, we have been able to educate the large mass of first year students having a completion rate of over 62%. Only time will tell what this means for LSU students, but we are excited for the potential to come in educating LSU students regarding financial literacy. Geaux Tigers!

FinLit Month

Financial Literacy Month

Financial Literacy Month – Shout it from the Mountaintop!

Here at EverFi, we wish Financial Literacy Month were year-round. With EverFi team members working day-in and day-out with students and families across the country, we see the lasting consequence that can result from limited financial knowledge. In a survey conducted with over 20,000 high schoolers, 60% reported that they were worried about money…this is in high school. The stress only grows from there. 79% of college students state that they frequently worry about their debt.

Having a month when everyone – companies, educators, and local leaders – can come together to help educate people in their communities, is what keeps our team motivated year-round. Since the start of April, we’ve seen thousands of teachers, politicians, business people, deans, parents and students stand up do their part to make Financial Literacy Month important and impactful, improving the lives of countless students.

Fueled by this groundswell of effort from across the county, we wanted to do our part to spread the message about the value of quality financial education. EveFi Co-Founder, Ray Martinez, was presented the opportunity to go on national TV and he brought one message share…everyone has a role to play in preparing students for their financial futures and now is the time to make a difference.

View Ray on Bloomberg TV discussing Financial Literacy Month:

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The Skinny on the “Silicon Beach:” Examining Tech Talk in SoCal

smbayLos Angeles is known for its sunshine, movie stars, and beach bodies, but what about technology? Lately, the term “Silicon Beach” has been buzzing around town as more groups are joining the effort to turn L.A. into a technology hub on the west coast. I’m even hearing our city leaders use the term as we gear up for a mayoral election in May. Eric Garcetti, mayoral candidate and current city councilmember, has plans to harness technology to create jobs, streamline government, and save taxpayer dollars. It’s exciting to see technology take a front seat out here.

As a Schools Manager for EverFi in L.A., it is my job to bring online learning to SoCal communities. Since the beginning of the school year, over 95 schools have implemented EverFi’s online learning platforms in the SoCal region and more are coming online each week. This is a great accomplishment; however, I can’t help but think that we can do better. There are thousands of schools with the potential to use our online learning platforms, so why aren’t all of them coming online? And what do educators really think about all of this tech talk? Determined to find out, I packed my bags and hit the road, stopping in Redondo Beach for the formation of the new L.A. Regional STEM Hub, San Diego for the California Charter Schools Association Conference, and Palm Springs for the Annual CUE Conference. (Thank you to Katy Perry’s song “California Gurls” for providing the soundtrack to my drive.) From L.A. to San Diego to Palm Springs, there was high energy and enthusiasm around educational technology. Educators were discussing concepts like personalized learning, blended learning, and examining how to pick great online courses. However, despite the plethora of topics being discussed, there were two in particular that kept coming up over and over and over again.

  • Common Core: How can teachers teach the common core and integrate technology at the same time? Where are the linkages? What types of activities incorporate both?
  • 1:1 Device Programs: How can teachers prepare for iPad, BYOD, and other 1:1 device programs being launched in their schools/districts?

It was clear that the teachers at these conferences were aware of the technology revolution they were facing and wanted to equip themselves to be as prepared as possible. Technology in the classroomAs I reflected on everything I had seen and heard, I came up with this conclusion. While more and more schools and districts are being provided with the technology infrastructure to make online learning possible (hardware, software, Internet), a new type of “digital divide” has emerged in our schools. Now, the challenge is helping to prepare all teachers to use that technology in a meaningful way in their classrooms. After all, what’s the point in having the technology if you’re not able to use it effectively? In the future, there will no longer be designated “computer teachers” on campus– all teachers will need to be technology teachers.

Luckily, EverFi keeps it simple and is mindful of the challenges teachers are facing. Our K-12 platforms are easy to implement and are low-maintenance for teachers. They align to common core standards and are being adapted to run on iPads and tablets as we speak. And what better way to start a 1:1 device program than to have students complete our 4-hour digital literacy curriculum first so they can learn to use that new device safely and responsibly? We firmly believe that any teacher can implement our platforms without getting a migraine, and we’re here to help every step of the way. While I am very proud of the progress we have made in SoCal this school year, it is clear that there is more work to be done. I will continue to listen, learn, contribute to the conversation, and do whatever I can to bring meaningful online learning to the region. (And hopefully I’ll have some time in between to work on my tan as well.) Until next time, follow me on Twitter @SarahASerota for updates on EverFi’s work in SoCal.

Education – A Financial Necessity


I’d like to think that some form of financial literacy has always been a staple subject taught in the modern American school. However, with the growing epidemic of recent college graduates entering the workforce with unprecedented levels of debt, it’s apparent they are not getting all the necessary financial preparation. Financial know-how is key in helping students weigh decisions on student debt and manage loans responsibly, ultimately giving them more options in our demanding economy.

Teaching the modern student requires a modern approach. In my classroom, a blend of both traditional instruction and interactive technology-based materials has proven far more engaging, and effective. With seemingly endless resources, traditional instruction materials were easy to develop and incorporate into my middle school career-preparation business classes, but finding ways to incorporate rigorous, technology-driven, engaging content proved to be more difficult…until I discovered EverFi.

Graduating from high school in 2006, I cannot recall a course that encompassed all of the concepts bundled in the EverFi Financial Literacy Program. This left me to pick up financial basics through a handful of high school courses and extend the rest of my learning into college, where I was already making many impactful and lasting financial decisions. Had I known about the impact of interest, credit scores, and consumer fraud (yes, I have been a victim) before interacting with them in the real world, I could have saved myself a lot of time and money. As a teacher, I am determined to offer my students the opportunity to not just learn about financial literacy, but allow them to role-play these decisions and experience the associated outcomes in a safe and realistic environment.

Through simulation and gameplay, EverFi has enabled me to offer this learning environment to each of my students and the impact has extended beyond our classroom. Our community is thrilled. I often hear comments like, “I wish I would have had that in school!” and “It’s about time they started teaching that!” from my parents and members of my community. It tells me that incorporating EverFi into my class was definitely a step in the right direction.

I am doing my part to ensure my original assumption is true…financial education is a staple subject at my school!


Value of Financial Literacy

Ask A Banker: The Value of Financial Education


While still in high school, I started my banking career more than 12 years ago as a part-time teller. I had a checking account since I was 14, balanced it regularly, so I naturally assumed I would be a pro at banking…

Boy, was I wrong!

I remember being overwhelmed with the dynamics of the banking world and the terminology of numerous bank products and services. CD ladder vs money markets. Credit cards vs debit cards. Home equity loans vs lines. I was an “adult,” yet quickly realized, I had little actual experience with many financial terms and products. Fortunately, I had a great manager who coached me and helped me understand that banking is much more than a checking account with a neat debit card!

Now, More Than Ever

Our country has experienced damaging blows to the economy recently. As a seasoned banker, I see how it affects many families. In my opinion, some this could have been prevented, or perhaps minimized, if someone had taken the time to teach young adults lessons on the complexities of the financial world. Lessons that money does not grow on trees, yet there are products and tools that can help grow savings. Lessons on how to avoid making big financial mistakes that can take years of recovery.

My parents were hard workers who lived paycheck to paycheck. There were some struggles. I assumed it was because they didn’t make a lot of money. I now see it differently. Though great people, my parents didn’t have the knowledge to manage their finances and plan for their future the way that they could have.

It’s my goal, as a banker, to reach as many people as possible, and teach them how to manage money, create a budget and plan for the future. It’s my goal to help individuals understand the products and resources my parents were unaware of to plan for a new home, car, retirement and life’s surprises.

I love that Everfi supports this vision and gives me the opportunity to connect with young adults in my community. I recently attended an Everfi kickoff at Liberty High School and met great teachers with the same passion for financial literacy. I look forward to returning to celebrating the success of these students when they complete their course and hear their takeaways; I look forward to seeing them take steps now towards a financially sound future.

Preparing for the Test…of Life


Financial Literacy EducaitonI’ve been teaching for quite some time and when I’m often asked what I teach. The exchange always goes something like this:

“What subject do you teach?”

“I teach financial literacy”

Immediately followed by, “What’s that?”.

I have few versions of the response, “Well, it’s how to take care of your money, like understanding banking, credit cards, renting apartments, getting insurance, paychecks and taxes, and the list goes on..”

Their response, ”I wish they had taught that when I was in school!”

Consumer economics classes have been around for a long time, but it seems that today’s economy highlighted its importance to the general public. I was brought up with an the old school way of thinking where the man of the house handled the money, but in today’s society, every person is tested day in, day out on their financial competency.  It’s a critical skill. Money management needs to be an individual responsibility, handled in your own way. From children learning to manage small amounts of money to the adults who share in financial decision-making for the family, building financial literacy is a life-long pursuit.

We hear more and more about the expected outcomes of education, many observers noting how our schools are falling short. No school system is perfect but there are many great examples of ways we are serving the needs of the modern student. Financial literacy is a topic that does not have a state mandated testing requirement and, in most states, is not a required course, but it teaches life skills that are very necessary for our students. I tell my students that they may never quote Shakespeare or use the Pythagorean theorem after they finish school, but they will use every bit of what they learn in financial literacy class for the rest of their lives. I’ve seen the skills taught in my classroom applied in the “real world” and it serves as a reminder that we must prepare our students for success both in and outside of the classroom.

The Path to Financial Literacy…2.0

NY Stock ExchangeOver 17 years of teaching financial literacy, I’ve found that learning about money management can be boring if it’s not done right. I’ve spent a lot of my time trying to make it interesting and relevant to my students. I’ve always been fascinated with employing technology in my classroom and began using online resources as soon as a computer lab became available. I was introduced to the EverFi Financial Literacy Platform a few years ago and immediately knew this would both educate and engage my students. After I began using it with my class, I was very pleased with the results. The students were genuinely focused on the modules and enjoyed the innovative approach. All would be well if I had regular access to computers for my students, but since my course is an elective I’ve got low priority in booking computer lab time.

After searching for 7 years, I was able to secure grant funding to get a mobile computer lab for my classroom. With easier access to computers, I am working to reach 100% certification from my current students. We are in the middle of the program, but I have a good feeling about our certification levels for this semester!

The Age of Context

With digital learning on the rise, it’s important to make sure that our students are guided toward using technology for learning. They are incredibly adept at using technology for entertainment, but they need to develop habits using it as a resource to support critical thinking. Every student can” google” an answer, but once that is done, it’s our role as educators to encourage them to contextualize and synthesize the information. In “googling” financial literacy education materials for my class, I received  thousands of hits, but the critical step is determining what blend of resources met my students’ needs.

It seems that financial literacy is a hot topic. Everyone with money to spend has a suggestion and their own version of the best way to become financially literate. It can be overwhelming to get through. The EverFi Platform has helped cut through the noise. Integrating this platform into my curriculum has allowed for topics to be covered with personalized feedback and a blend of both instruction and assessment.

At the start of my class, I have to explain to my students the importance of financial literacy. By the end, they are excited to become EverFi Certified in financial education! They’re proud of their achievement and I’m proud of them.


Defining “Digital Identity” at NASPA 2013

Digital Identity word cloud

As someone who has been on Facebook for almost a decade, it is hard to remember life before social media.  But I do, sort of.

I remember the letter Mrs. Freeman sent home in 6th grade alerting parents to the distracting nature of America Online, as it was definitely “a disruption to studying.”  I remember picking my screen-name “Shnoogle,” (cringe) and the……dial-up…static…and satisfying welcome chime! that became a nightly habit.  Hearing the words “you’ve got mail,” brought a new pleasure never before experienced.  And that was just the beginning.

NAPSA LogoI recently returned from my first NASPA conference (National Association of Student Personnel Administrators). The conference brings together student affairs administrators of all levels at receptions, luncheons, and other miscellaneous events. However, the best networking occurs during the educational sessions and featured speakers.

It was during one of these speaker sessions that I had the opportunity to hear Eric Stoller, Student Affairs and Technology blogger for Inside Higher Ed, speak to a room of young student affairs professionals on how to help students develop their digital identities.

Eric asked the obvious question “how do we define digital identity”?

Some hands shot up…

“It’s who you present yourself to be online.”

“It’s what shows up when you google yourself.”

“It’s your brand.”

I thought about how I would answer the question myself.  It’s you, online.  Simple.  But then I thought about all pictures that don’t make it on to Facebook profiles, or in some cases, unfortunately do.

When one of the student affairs administrators asked Eric how to deal with frat members posting photos of themselves wearing their letters while taking shots of tequila, he answered “social didn’t invent stupidity overnight.”

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 9.32.43 AMIn other words, students have been saying and doing dumb stuff forever.  Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram just make it so much easier.  And likes, retweets and comments, just validate and encourage them to do it more frequently.

Most of us don’t count the number of times in a week that someone laughs at a joke, compliments our shirt, or gives you a fist bump for no reason.  So why do we get excited when our new profile picture gets 11 likes?  Because the feeling is instant and self-affirming.

“Yes, I do look awesome in this photo.  Yes, my kid is the absolute cutest, so let me share another 37 pictures with you…”

We’ve all heard horror stories about embarrassing photos being posted online, or career-ending tweets.  We’ve heard of people creating “professional Facebook” vs. “personal Facebook” or trying to lockdown content areas using a complex formula of privacy settings.  But the hard truth is that the notion of ‘online privacy’ is a fallacy.

We can’t be all things to everyone, but we can be everything to a select few.  So who we talk to, and how we talk to them matter.  Context matters.  And in the context of social media we have to develop a digital identity that is both true to ourselves and aware of our audience (everyone).

To me, this feels like good old-fashioned student development.  Teach and train around positive values and respectful conversation.  If it seems hard, it’s because the current generation of students has little, or no memory of life before social media, and so it’s up to parents, mentors, and teachers to steer them back on to the path, even when we may not know where it leads.


The Most Important College Freshman Class Isn’t Being Taught…Yet

In the first month of my freshman year of college, I had three main questions driving my life:

  1. What are my plans for the weekend?

  2. Are my roommates crazy?

  3. How am I going to decide what to major in?

Fast forward four years, and I have a diploma in hand grappling with an entirely different set of questions:

  1. How am I going to pay for rent?

  2. How am I going to start repaying my loans?

  3. How am I going to afford to keep myself alive?

So there’s an obvious gap between the priorities of a college freshman and the priorities of a college graduate, and understandably so. Living in a college bubble where real-world expenses aren’t yet a priority means that managing money isn’t a priority either. But there are plenty of moments during college when the right financial information and making good financial decisions will seriously impact a student’s financial future.

Student DebtIt’s especially true when it comes to borrowing money to pay for school expenses – and it’s what happened to me when I was in college. I wasn’t aware of (and frankly, didn’t care about) the amount of money I was borrowing to cover tuition, room and board and the other daily expenses of college life. And it’s part of the reason I graduated with $30,000 in debt (the majority of which was avoidable).

I needed a wake-up call in college; some basic level of education about managing my money; a class or a course where I was forced to acknowledge the financial decisions I was making, take a good hard look at the consequences, and change course.

This generation faces an unprecedented challenge: in 2011, U.S. student loan debt passed the $1 trillion mark, overtaking total credit card debt for the first time in history; the average student debt load is over $25,000. All this means there’s a continuing trend of students borrowing for college and graduating with an obscene amount of debt.

It means that financial education isn’t just a good thing for the typical college student – it’s critical.

Buttonwood_ScreenshotThis is where the college can step in. While it’s not the job of a community college or a four-year university to monitor or intervene in a student’s spending and borrowing habits, it is a school’s job is to cultivate a cohort of students that successfully graduate and move on to fulfilling and stable careers.

So just how does a school begin teaching personal finance to college students? Here are a few ways that colleges and universities can integrate financial education into the college experience:

  1. Use a platform that’s easy to deliver and easy to track: It’s hard to come up with the resources to require every first-year student to take a basics life skills lecture (as much as they may need it). So the solution to providing financial education at scale is technology. Using a platform like EverFi’s Buttonwood – Personal Finance and Student Loan Management course let’s school administrators deploy financial education to a large number of students and track student progress, knowledge gains and positive financial behavioral change.
  2. Integrate into everyone’s student experience: Even if a first-year student doesn’t have loans now, it doesn’t mean she won’t in the future. An entire campus or cohort of students should receive financial education instruction, not just the groups of students that “need it.”
  3. Tie it to critical transition and financial moments: Research suggests that the “just-in-time” financial education is the most effective way to promote positive financial decisions. Simply put, the best time to teach financial decision-making skills is in the moment of a major financial decision. Tying financial education to critical moments like the beginning of freshman year or when the student receives student loan entrance and exit counseling helps the lessons stick and promotes thoughtful financial decision-making.

Even with a personal finance course on campus, college freshmen will still be focused on questions about how to make new friends and how to manage their class schedules in the first month of school. But with right kind of financial education early in the college experience, we can hopefully add another question to their list: How do I set myself up for success for the rest of my life?