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Waterford Upstart partners with Boys and Girls Club to help Sioux Falls kids get a 'leg up' before kindergarten

October 15, 2021 / By Lisa Verdin

Annie Todd Sioux Falls Argus Leader

Published October 14, 2021

Sioux Falls 4-year-olds have a chance to get a head start in school before they enter kindergarten with the help of a new free educational program.

Waterford Upstart, which is based in Utah and works with states within the western region, helps kids with math, science and reading skills with a five-day-a-week program over the internet. The program, which only takes 15 minutes, provides each child with a free laptop that has a wireless hotspot, so parents don't have to worry about internet connection.

Waterford, which relies on enrollment numbers for state funding, recently partnered with the Boys and Girls Club of the Sioux Empire to provide additional educational opportunities for the young kids enrolled at the center, said Kassidy Smith, director of operations for early learning with the Boys and Girls Club.

On average, 92% of children who participate in the Waterford Upstart program are prepared for kindergarten, according to Waterford.

"We see much success with it, and these results always last until fourth grade," said Tiarha Huerta, a partnership manager for Waterford.

At the registration event, held this week at the Boys and Girls Club of the Sioux Empire, seven families signed up after a flyer was sent home with children.

For Robyn Urban, she's excited to sign her 4-year-old son Dawson up because there are times he gets bored, she said.

"I figured maybe it would be a challenge for him to try and learn some new information and really be ready for kindergarten when he starts," Urban, 38, a lead speech pathologist at DakotAbilities, said. "I'm just curious to see what all he learns, because their minds are like sponges at this age."

Kids play games and watch videos during their 15-minute lessons. Huerta told parents that when they demo the program with small groups, kids sometimes don't want to stop because it's fun.

Genesis Tovis Lafrrave was enrolled in the program last year and learned how to count up to thirty and more, her mom, Jassel Meza, 28, said.

"She knows how to add and subtract, and can multiply one times one," she said, adding that 5-year-old Genesis was enrolled in the math and science program.

Meza is looking forward to enrolling her 20-month-old son in the program when he's old enough.

Parents also have a chance to follow along with what their child is learning through an app that tracks their progress, Huerta said. A family coach is also provided to help answer any questions along the way.

"In a way, even though we're providing the software and the program for the kids to do, the parents are also always empowered to take control of their child's educational path," Huerta said.

The kids in the program will also have the chance to work on some of the activities while at the Boys and Girls Club.

"With this partnership, we'll be helping them [the kids] here within the center to complete some of their studies and assignments," Smith said.

There are no barriers to registering for the program. Parents who are interested can reach out to either the Boys and Girls Club of Sioux Empire or go to the Waterford website.

Follow Annie Todd on Twitter @AnnieTodd96. Reach out to her with tips, questions and other community news at atodd@argusleader.com or give her a call at 605-215-3757.