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RACINE — The Academies of Racine were implemented in middle schools throughout Racine Unified School District during the 2022-23 school year and just before the 2023-24 school year begins, the district was awarded an EVERFI Empowered Seal.

With 17,862 students, the district was named the largest school district to earn the seal in the state of Wisconsin.

The seal serves as a symbol of educating and committing to teaching the whole child.

“When we first got the news, I think (we were) all excited,” said Alexander DeBaker, the Executive Director of Academies & Transformation with the Office for the Chief of Schools for RUSD. “It just showcases the work that our teachers are doing with the students.”

RUSD was among 1,335 school districts nationwide that earned the 2023 Empowered Seal.

“We’re in a top 10% of the country,” DeBaker said.

Educators implement EVERFI curriculum

Among the teachers making a difference – and who helped implement the EVERFI modules into the middle school Academies’ curriculum – were educators Kristi Walsko and Brandon Tristano.

Walski and Tristano serve as sixth-grade seminar teachers. The seminar course is offered at Mitchell School, Gifford School and Jerstad-Agerholm School.

Those in grades six through eight focus on achieving success through the program. They will continue the EVERFI curriculum throughout the upcoming school year too.

Through the Academies model and implementation of EVERFI, students have learned valuable and engaging skills that apply to everyday life such as financial literacy, cyber/online safety, STEM and career exploration, and more.

“I had several instances in class where kids have told me that they have convinced their parents to put their piggy bank money in a savings account instead, so they can earn interest or stay within a budget that they set for themselves and being able to put more money into savings,” shared Walsko about the curriculum’s application to real life.

Tristano pointed out that cybersecurity-related modules are continual reminders to students to be wise when using social media and interacting on digital devices or programs.

Time is dedicated to modules and gaining a deeper understanding before students put their knowledge to the test.

In order for students to earn their certification, they have to pass a post-quiz at 70% or higher. It was the recurring success following the modules that led RUSD students to gain skills for everyday use and helped them to earn the seal.

The majority of certificates were earned by middle schoolers but high schoolers in the district also contributed to the district’s success.

“It’s mostly positive,” said Tristano about the student’s feedback on what they are learning.

Going forward

With a year under its belt, the district is focused on continuing its success in the upcoming school year.

“We had an opportunity to reflect on what our students really need, based on community and teacher support and administrators really coming together and figuring out what are some things that our students need to be successful in middle school, as well as life,” explained DeBaker.

For the upcoming school year, DeBaker acknowledges that Educators Credit Union is stepping up to add to the growth when it comes to the financial literacy portion.

“I think it’s great that we’re able to celebrate this with our students and community because, you know, having educators, as well as a sponsor to this whole thing, it just showcases the need in our community,” said DeBaker.

They will sponsor three units and offer the chance to earn additional certifications.

Tristano noted that another focus this year will be equipping students so that they can apply for scholarships available through EVERFI.

This next year, the district will work to achieve earning the seal for the next school year.

More about the Empowered Seal can be read online.


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