Hey kids, ‘Get a Life’

TENNERTON — Eighth-graders at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School got a crash course in life last week as they learned how to budget for real-world expenses on both small and large salaries.
The West Virginia State Treasurer’s office brought its Get A Life program to the middle school on Tuesday and Wednesday.
B-UMS principal Renee Warner said she thought the program helped fill a need to introduce the students to real-world scenarios and tie it in with the focus on career exploration.
“We don’t really have curriculum that covers those kind of life skills,” she said. “We do a lot of career exploration practice, so we are looking at different careers and jobs they can have.
“This activity walks them through two different scenarios, one in which they have a job that needs no training after high school, and the second is a job that requires at least a trade certificate, a two-year-degree or four-year degree.
“They have to budget through buying a house, buying a car, groceries, appliances — those kinds of things — and they find almost across the board that with the first job they are in the hole each month if they have not budgeted well. The second job they learn is much easier to be in the black, so that’s why we thought this was really important for them to learn.”
Ninety-three percent of the eighth graders went through the program either Tuesday or Wednesday.
“We are really pleased with those numbers,” Warner said, adding that only those who were absent missed out.
The experience the eighth-graders had with Get a Life will give them a lot to think about as they start planning for high school and beyond.
“This is going to follow right in line with our advisory lessons,” she said. “Now is the time of the year where we really start helping our kids look at their five-year plan, their plan for the high school and what kind of career path they want to do.
“So, from this time of year on, that’s what we do in our advisory with the eighth grade. They are looking at their schedule for the high school and this is a really important time when they are doing research and honing in on what they want to do.”
Pat Ramsburg, coordinator for the Get a Life Program, was teamed with Nancy Francis, who works with the state treasurer’s office, for the class.
Mountain CAP of West Virginia’s Lori Hagi was also on hand for the B-UMS event.
“In this particular situation, Mountain CAP has been a leader,” Ramsburg said.
The B-UHS student council provided volunteers to man the booths, ranging from Reality Realty, where the students quickly learned what kind of mortgage payment they could afford, to the mall, to insurance and more.
“We are hoping that they will have a better sense of what it costs to be an adult, to pay your bills and that the more education you get, the higher your income will go,” Ramsburg said. “There are 70 different identities and they are all given families to support. With their first round, they have a job they can get in West Virginia with a high school diploma.”
“Generally speaking, they will run out of money before they have bought everything,” she added. “Then we send them to the go center and they will trade their red card, which is a high school diploma, for a green card, which is a better job with some certification or education beyond high school.”
“They start over with more money and a different family, and you hope they don’t overspend that time,” she said. “We hope they recognize how much their parents or guardians have to go through every month to pay for everything.”
“They buy groceries, insurance, a car, a house, utilities, furniture, appliances, they go to the doctor and they have to buy gas,” she continued. “There isn’t a bank, so there isn’t a place where they can go and get more money. This is a real down and dirty version of creating a monthly budget.”
The Get a Life curriculum can fit sixth grade through seniors, according to Ramsburg.
“It just depends on what school wants us and what grade level they want us to work with,” she said. “It was originally written for the GEAR UP project, which was targeted for seventh grade.
“A graduate student at Fairmont State wrote this curriculum for the GEAR UP and shared it with the state treasurer’s office, and they have been sponsoring it ever since.”
Ramsburg said in the years she has been teaching Get A Life, students really seem to grasp how the real world functions when they are on their own without mom and dad to pay the bills.
“We’ve had kids say, ‘I thought I wanted three kids and now I don’t want any,’ and ‘I am going to live with my mom forever,’” she said.
At B-UMS Wednesday, Eugene Smith was learning his $1,819 salary each month in a manual labor job was not going very far in the first scenario.
“Gas is almost $200 a month,” he exclaimed.
Nearby, Alexis Lewis was trying to pick out a house on her $2,842 monthly salary as a customer service rep.
Lewis said she had learned that expenses were a lot higher than what she thought.
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