Chamber ‘Keeping it Real’ in county schools

Published 10:56 am Monday, September 23, 2013

The Greater Shelby County Chamber of Commerce launched its Keeping it Real program in local schools this month. (File)

The Greater Shelby County Chamber of Commerce launched its Keeping it Real program in local schools this month. (File)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Students at Columbiana’s Cornerstone Christian School were in shock when they got a real-world look at what it costs to live life after high school or college.

“One of the things we kept hearing over and over again at Cornerstone was ‘I had no idea stuff cost this much. I had no idea my parents pay this much for things right now,’” said Greater Shelby County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kirk Mancer. “It’s definitely a sort of reality check.”

The Pelham-based Chamber kicked off its Keeping it Real program at Cornerstone on Sept. 19, and is preparing to bring the program to nearly every public and private high school in Shelby County.

Through the program, which is a part of the Chamber’s Shelby One initiative, GSCCC representatives are visiting schools to help ninth-graders better understand the cost of living in the adult world.

On the first day of the two-day visit to the school, the Chamber representatives administer a quiz to the students to help them understand expenses related to the adult world. The students are then given a randomly generated career track and life situation tied to actual salary amounts in Shelby County.

On the second day, the students, armed with their life situations and salary levels, travel to 12 stations representing different expenses of adult life, such as child care, utilities and housing.

“The first day, we quiz them on costs of items such as a gallon of milk and a gallon of gas,” Mancer said. “The second day, they take their life situations and visit the different stations to see how they should manage their income.”

The life situations encompass a gamut of scenarios, careers and education levels.

“The neat part is that they get to see and compare life situations with their classmates,” Mancer said. “They can see the concept of ‘If I stick with it and finish high school, here is how it will impact my life in the future.’”

The program’s next stops will be at Vincent and Calera high schools, and will continue to other schools each month through April 2014.

“We are trying to do what we can to ensure Shelby County has a quality workforce in the future,” Mancer said.