The Salvation Army, EverFi and Target partner to boost after-school learning.
It’s after school on Friday and the homework is light, so Grace, 7, takes a seat at one of 16 laptops in the room and signs in. The second grader with hot pink nails is soon clicking through questions about responsible money choices, topics from the difference between a career and entrepreneur, to an introduction to taxes.
“This is fun because there’s games,” Grace said, while making selections to plan for her first job. “I’m learning about money so I know more when I’m older.”
And that’s exactly the point.
Grace is part of The Salvation Army Digital Learning Program—in partnership with EverFi and through a grant from Target—now happening in 200 after-school programs across the nation with youth in grades K-12.
“We feel the earlier the better to at least introduce kids to concepts like financial literacy so that later when they are opening a bank account or a credit card they will have learned about it,” said Jim Kim, vice president of national partnerships at EverFi. “The digital learning experience is meant to provide learners of all ages with life skills they maybe wouldn’t receive as a traditional part of their education.”
EverFi’s education technology is aimed at empowering youth and communities with life skills in financial capability, STEM readiness, career leadership and success, health and wellness, and diversity and inclusion. Its interactive learning software is used by over 1,200 partners, each trained in its implementation by EverFi’s veteran educators.
In “Vault – Understanding Money,” for example, Grace was immersed in real-life financial scenarios such as creating a household budget in an animated, performance-based game that asked her to determine the difference between needs and wants in her budget.
“These are areas and skills that will prepare learners for their future, through technology,” Kim said. “It is an interactive, engaging, and self-guided platform that uses gamification to pull a learner into the learning experience.”
Target, a long-time partner of The Salvation Army, wanted to make a bigger impact in supporting the education of children. It approached the Army, which connected with EverFi. In addition to funding the Digital Learning Program, Target also supported the purchase of 1,700 new computers and other upgrades to enable more youth to access the program in centers across the country.
“Target’s partnership with The Salvation Army’s Digital Learning Program further strengthens our commitment to supporting local communities,” Laysha Ward, executive vice president and chief corporate social responsibility officer for Target, said in a statement. “By working together, Target, The Salvation Army and EverFi can make a positive impact to change how youth will interact and engage in learning in a new way.”
In Las Vegas, 47 kids are now enrolled in the Digital Learning Program and 16 have already completed one of the courses.
“All of the activities are targeted to children, so they’ve been able to run with it,” said Las Vegas Citadel Corps Officer Lt. Joy Groenleer. “Once they complete their homework, many come right to the computers and are here the rest of the day. We often have a wait.”
She opens the corps’ digital learning center—stocked with 20 laptops from Target—from 3 to 6 p.m. on weekdays.
“We live in a digital world, yet some of these kids are coming from families in need that don’t have computers at home,” Groenleer said. “This program is helping them learn things that they need to know, and in turn they are taking that learning home with them.”
Upon completing a course, a child receives a certificate marking the occasion. But Groenleer offered an additional incentive: the first participant to finish two courses will get a chance to throw a pie in the face of his or her favorite staff member.
“These days,” she said, “I’m trying to be extra nice.”