One District’s Innovative Way to Navigate All That Innovation

In my role working to bring EverFi’s programs to schools, I have the opportunity to work with dozens of districts large and small. Virtually every administrator I speak with voices ambivalence about the innovation available to them today: while the myriad of new technological resources pose exciting opportunities for educators and students, they also force a dizzying array of considerations and decisions. Anahein image

Districts deal with decisions regarding which innovative tools to deploy , and how best to do so, in a variety of ways: some create committees, others distribute decision-making to the school sites, still others house the process in subject-area departments. With countless other decisions to be made in running a school, department or district, the staff faced with these decisions aren’t always able to make innovation their first priority.

One of EverFi’s partner-districts has developed a unique structure, and seems to be reaping rewards as a result: Anaheim Union High School District, a large, diverse district in Southern California (Anaheim being far more than Disneyland and conventions), employs a Director of Innovative Programs – a title I’ve seen nowhere else! One person in AUHSD , the Director, Dr. Diane Donnelly-Toscano , is charged with maintaining a keen awareness of the district’s needs, considering the many new, exciting programs available, recruiting input and perspective from both the central office and the schools themselves, and determining how best to deploy the selected programs.

This structure surely isn’t without its bureaucratic snags, but from my perspective, it works with nearly unique efficiency. It helps that Diane maintains a solid awareness of the ed tech world, and is an efficient decision-maker, and a compelling communicator, able to assess and build interest effectively. But her role, and its position in the district, enables Diane to make use of those skills. Reporting to the Superintendent, she is solely charged with ensuring that AUHSD remains at the forefront of education innovation.

anaheim HSClearly we’re big fans of Diane and Anaheim schools , and we’re proud to say that she’s a fan of ours and that Anaheim is one of the biggest districts in the country using EverFi. In determining whether and how to work with EverFi, Diane was no dictator; she gathered opinions and built consensus. But that process appeared smooth and efficient, and has led to near-seamless implementation and solid growth of our programs.

The value of this structure (and Diane herself) extends well beyond EverFi: Anaheim has earned a reputation for its leading-edge offerings, as thousands of students every year complete a Career and Technical Education “Pathway” program, while over a thousand others participate in an innovative e-learning program.

School districts are saddled with challenges that few of us can begin to fathom; they also face opportunities that we in the ed tech world believe are going to change the very nature of education. It’s exciting to see districts like Anaheim, and committed leaders like Diane, making the most of this exciting time.

A Path to Financial Empowerment

As our nation works to rebuild after the financial crisis and looks for lessons learned, a national dialog has emerged around what we all can do. How does an individual make a difference in a complex economy? There has been no shortage of debate around what could have been done differently, but as we work toward empowering a new generation to lead our country toward a brighter, stronger future, financial education has emerged as a clear solution.

As State Treasurer, I have the opportunity to talk to students across Rhode Island about financial education. The conversations that I have with these students are always insightful.  Recently, during a trip to Westerly, RI, I spoke to a young woman who was showing me her course work on budgeting. Her comments said it all: “Wow, I guess I can’t get everything I want all at once.”  We had a great conversation about saving up for big purchases and the great feeling that happens when you reach a financial goal.

When it comes down to it, personal finance is just that: personal. We each build our own relationship with money, and education can mean the difference between an empowered confidence and a confusing inconvenience. Habits and opinions are formed at a young age, so to create lasting change we must build educational foundations early.

My team has been dedicated to meeting these needs for the next generation of Rhode Islanders.  Together, in partnership with EverFi, our office has launched a financial education program in nearly 40 high schools around the state – and that number is growing.  EverFi is an online, interactive platform that supports our teachers in instructing students about budgeting and saving, making smart investments, credit, renting vs. owning, taxes and insurance. It is even helping them determine whether what they need is actually what they just want.

Financial Discipline in a Hyper-Connected World

Often when I talk to students, I tell them about how I saved for my first apartment in New York City, and how proud I was to be a recent law school graduate and be able to write a check for my first month’s rent and security deposit.

The harsh reality is that these days, when it comes to financial discipline, students have it much harder than I ever did growing up. Like a song?  Download it from iTunes. Want that new book? Press a button and you can download that too. Can’t find what you’re looking for at the mall? That’s what Amazon is for. Today, more than ever, spending is easy.  And as technology advances, it’s going to get even easier.  It can be difficult to set goals and resist temptation.ri 1

But empowered with financial knowledge, students can understand the impact of their decisions before they click ‘Buy’.  They know their financial well-being depends on it. They know that they need to think about the terms of their student loans before they sign on the dotted line. They know the importance of saving for retirement when they are young and starting their first job because time, and compounding interest, are on their side.  They know the importance of a good credit score, and how this number can impact their major life decisions such as going back to school and buying a house and a car.

Before we know it, our students will become financially empowered adults. By working together with schools and EverFi, we are creating a stronger Rhode Island where the stress of debt and financial uncertainty is replaced with confidence and a plan for the future. We’re working toward a solution.

Thank You Educators

As the academic year closes, it is appropriate to shine the spotlight on educators. Their tireless work to improve the opportunities for today’s younger generation is critical and often underappreciated. EverFi employs many former teachers, and we take to heart the effort you expend to improve the trajectory of students’ lives. Though National Teacher Appreciation Week is in April, one week does not do justice to the work teachers do. As the commercial says, “we’ve got your 6,” and EverFi sends a heartfelt thank you.

This time of year, EverFi is often celebrating student certification alongside educators in classrooms and schools across the country; sponsors often host certification events to recognize student completion of one of EverFi’s critical life skill platforms. The past few weeks I was fortunate to celebrate with teachers at Evanston Township High School in Illinois, whose students completed the TCF Bank Financial Scholars Program, and at New Tech High School in Gary, Indiana where students were recognized for completing the BMO Harris Bank Financial Fluency for Students Program.

At the event, impassioned teachers talked about providing better opportunities for their students and new ways to personalize learning with our platforms. They mentioned that financial literacy is not an option or an extra curricular activity – it is required knowledge in the 21st century. It was obvious they felt an immense passion for their craft and were invested in their students from the sense of community and pride they exuded for their school.

Mrs. Jacobs of New Tech High School highlighted that when she learned she would be teaching a new finance course this quarter she started to dust off her college textbooks, and then EverFi and BMO Harris Bank introduced the BMO Harris Bank Financial Fluency for Students Program.  At the celebration event, she recognized the work of all of her students, but made special note of a few students who juggled multiple projects and still got certified. One of the three student speakers, whose mom came to watch her receive her certificate, returned the praise and thanked Mrs. Jacobs for the work she does day in and day out, saying “I love you.”

At Evanston Township, the student speaker talked about how the Financing Higher Education module gave her a “clue” of how she would tackle the financial aid process.   She too closed by thanking her teachers for working so hard to make sure she was prepared academically as well as for “real life.”

The certification events reminded me that many teachers are in the process of celebrating another accomplishment this time of year: high school graduation. For me, as a former teacher, it’s personal. I recently visited my former advisory in Chicago who I spent three years with prior to joining EverFi. It was great to see not only my former students, but also my old colleagues who have built one of highest performing, non-selective schools in Chicago. It reminded me that many educators across the country are currently celebrating a new journey that is about to begin in students’ lives. At my former school, the mission is for students to use their college degrees to make a positive, multi-generational change. Our work at EverFi resonates with that. We are helping make sure that students learn the critical skills they need to make it through college and life:  financial literacy, digital literacy, and alcohol education to name a few. The pressure to do so often causes many young adults to veer off course.  Without great teachers, students would never get off the starting line. If you are a educator, take a minute and pat yourself on back for the work that you do. If you are not an educator, find one, and pat them on the back for making sure students are prepared and inspired for years to come.

Teaching is often not easy, but it is necessary and changes lives. Teachers make the world a better place. It is tough to see our students move on, but so great to see where today’s millennials go. If you brought EverFi’s critical skill platforms to students this year, thank you for arming students with the critical knowledge they need as they venture off into a new chapter of their lives.  At EverFi, we have only scratched the surface of reaching students across the country, but our journey continues in partnership with our schools, educators, and sponsors.  Though teachers may only think about the students that they work with on a day-to-day basis, the education innovation you bring to your schools with our sponsors’ support has a ripple effect for generations to come. Remember, we are educators, and “we’ve got your 6.”


Bridging the Gap to the Next Generation of Customers

As banks face an aging customer base and rapidly evolving technology, bank marketers often struggle to answer the question:  How do we reach the next generation of customers?  Long gone are the days when bank customers physically visit their bank on a regular basis to make routine transactions.  More and more banks now offer online and mobile services – a critical first step in connecting in today’s digital world.  But the transition to online banking is only the beginning of how technology can be utilized to make sure your brand is the one that millennials connect with.

Leveraging social media — particularly the everyday outlets where youth engage such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram — make it easy for millennials to identify with your brand and help keep your organization relevant and visible in the eyes of young people.  Even better than simply being in the space that young people engage in is blending your brand name with a truly impactful and meaningful program that can help produce savvy customers for years to come.  The unique partnership that EverFi creates with our bank partners truly allows for them to design a financial literacy program that represents who they are as a brand while having a tremendous impact within their community.

The ability for banks to private label EverFi’s award-winning technology in the classroom and be the exclusive sponsor within their market make this unique model a very attractive option for banks to get ahead of the curve and build their brand by leveraging technology.  Hundreds of local community banks are currently working with EverFi to expand their marketing presence, meet regulatory challenges and empower those in their communities with critical life skills.  EverFi has a vast network of schools managers that serve as our partners’ activation team and liaison between the schools of their choice.  The schools team works on your behalf to ensure wide-spread adoption of the technology across school districts. They are exceptional at their jobs.

Impact is a word that is used a lot when searching for results in marketing and business in general.  The programs that EverFi delivers in partnership with banks have tremendous impact for customer acquisition, branding, and developing smarter customers for years to come. All in a highly engaging, interactive manner that is truly unique.  The way consumers bank is rapidly changing, and the EverFi team is connecting banks and communities through technology in an impactful and measurable way.