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Equity in education: Bridging the digital learning divide

How The Sanneh Foundation supports students during this unusual school year

When some school districts announced the 2020-2021 school year would begin in an online learning format, St. Paul, Minn.-based The Sanneh Foundation moved quickly to support families in new ways.

The nonprofit organization — which promotes educational attainment among youth — established a Distanced Learning Hub to provide students a safe place to learn with access to devices, internet, tutoring and meals while their parents are at work.

At the same time, Securian Financial searched for a way to donate up to 110 new laptops the company no longer needed. The timing was right to donate 70 of them to The Sanneh Foundation to support the nonprofit’s learning hub. The other 40 laptops were donated to the Partnership for a ConnectedMN.

Rapid shift to remote work 

When Securian Financial moved most of its employees to working at home instead of the office, it needed additional laptops — which were in high demand and hard to find. As a safeguard until enterprise-level laptops were available, Securian purchased 110 home-level versions, but ultimately ended up not needing them.

“We knew we had a great opportunity to donate the laptops to support our community and wanted to find a local organization that would benefit,” explains Kris Rexroth, director of user services, Enterprise Technology at Securian Financial. “We decided The Sanneh Foundation was a great fit.”

Securian donated laptops to Sanneh Foundation

Donated new laptops arrive at The Sanneh Foundation.

Delivery and set-up day

On September 10, 2020, a group of Securian Financial’s technology provisioning, front-line tech support and senior leadership employees delivered the laptops to The Sanneh Foundation. They configured the devices to the organization’s specifications and ensured they were ready for students four days later, on the first day of school.

“This was a perfect extension of how our technology employees were able to extend their professional expertise to our community,” says Nicole Hansen, manager, Community Relations and the Securian Financial Foundation.

Jim Bishop, a technology provisioning analyst at Securian Financial, was one of those employees.

“It was an inspiring experience and made me want to volunteer more,” he says. “The Sanneh Foundation is doing some amazing things. I love that they are dedicated to helping the community and getting kids access to computers so they can continue to grow and get an education.”

Meeting needs together

According to Brandon Griffin, The Sanneh Foundation’s director of operations, more than 50 students are regularly participating in the Distanced Learning Hub so far, with a goal to scale up to 72 students in November.

“The Distanced Learning Hub is another example of how our organization is addressing the Social Determinants of Health and meeting the community's immediate needs,” he explains. “There is a digital divide that affects under-resourced youth in our community. The generous donation of laptops by the Securian team has been a game changing gift for the families we serve, who otherwise would not have equitable opportunities for distance learning in their own homes due to a variety of circumstances.”

Brandon says the learning hub will maintain a 10:1 youth-to-teacher ratio, and the facility’s gym has been retrofitted with partitions and safety equipment to cultivate a safe and nurturing learning environment.

Securian Financial has enjoyed a strong relationship with The Sanneh Foundation over the last several years and looks forward to future contributions through our employees serving as volunteers and providing support from the Securian Financial Foundation.

“This is the time for us to give when we can, to serve when we can, and to be a part of a solution that addresses equity in education,” Nicole says.

Kris adds, “It is very rewarding for our team to be able to provide technology resources and, through The Sanneh Foundation, help remove one challenge in the current distance learning model for students.”

Kris Rexroth, Nicole Hansen and Jim Bishop are employees of Securian Financial and thus have a financial connection to Securian Financial. Their statements were given freely.

DOFU 11-2020