Teens learn to pay their taxes

Published 4:32 pm Monday, April 9, 2012

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

“My students loved this experience,” said Pelham High School family and consumer science teacher Barbara Neel. “Even though their first task was paying their taxes.”

While it is surprising to hear that anyone enjoyed paying taxes, these high school students were pretending to be 25 years old — a magical age to a teen whose parents are still making most of the family’s purchasing decisions.

Neel’s classes were participating in a lesson provided by Reality Check, a part of the Smart Investing @ Your Library program that is currently being offered at the Pelham Public Library through a grant provided by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation and the American Library Association.

Volunteers from the Pelham Senior Center and Pelham Library Guild, along with Pelham Public Librarians came to Neel’s classroom to teach this Reality Check lesson.

David Smith from Pelham Public Library takes a minute to pose with PHS freshmen Maira Martinez and Michelle Laggy-Coyle and their teacher Barbara Neel to celebrate the success of their study of financial responsibility through the Smart Investing @ Your library program. (Contributed)

Students pulled their life circumstances as 25-year-old adults out of a bag. A slip of paper revealed to the students their occupations, their family situations and their incomes — at least for the duration of their Reality Check budgeting unit. Volunteers participated at each station by assisting students in figuring their expenses-and, as Neel said, “First, they paid their taxes.”

Students could not believe how quickly what seemed like a comfortable income slipped away from them.

“I realize why my parents have to say no sometimes. Everything is so expensive,” freshman Maira Martinez said.

After taxes, students had to visit more stations to pay for housing, cars, insurance, day care and other common expenses of a 25-year-old.

“Working with the students and seeing how seriously they take the budgeting exercises proves how worthwhile this program is,” Pelham Library Director Barbara Roberts said. “Watching our city’s teens and senior citizens work together has been very positive. I hope this program becomes part of an ongoing partnership between Pelham High School and Pelham Public Library. We appreciate the enthusiastic support of Barbara Neel that made this partnership possible.”

Connie Nolen can be reached at CNolen@Shelbyed.k12.al.us.