Chamber keeps it real for thousands of kids

Students at Thompson High School learn what it takes to get by after high school during a January Keeping It Real event, hosted by the Greater Shelby County Chamber of Commerce. (File)

Students at Thompson High School learn what it takes to get by after high school during a January Keeping It Real event, hosted by the Greater Shelby County Chamber of Commerce. (File)

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

Thousands of Shelby County ninth-graders now have a better idea of what to expect when they move on to life after high school after the Greater Shelby County Chamber of Commerce gave them a brutally honest look at adult life over the past year.

Through the program, which the GSCCC hosted at 10 Shelby County high schools since last August, students were given a life scenario and are then tasked with balancing their expenses with their income.

During the 2013-2014 school year, the GSCCC reached 2,627 students at Cornerstone Christian School, Vincent High School, Calera High School, Pelham High School, Montevallo High School, Thompson High School, Oak Mountain High School, Shelby County High School, Chelsea High School and Kingwood Christian School.

GSCCC Director of Community and Workforce Development Keyla Handley said students often expressed surprise at how many expenses come with living as an adult, and said the program encouraged kids to stay in school.

“All in all, the Keeping It Real program was extremely worthwhile and provided us with a great opportunity to meet with – and provide some valuable information to – Shelby County’s future workforce.” Handley said. “The feedback we received from the students also shows that we achieved our dual goals of getting them to start thinking about their future and sharing a slice of reality when it comes to what things cost.”

During the Keeping it Real programs, GSCCC and community volunteers manned tables representing expenses such as insurance, housing, clothing and groceries – all which carried prices based on Shelby County’s market.

Students also were able to choose to seek higher education – which came with tuition costs – or a second job to add to their income.

During the GSCCC’s luncheon on April 30, state Rep. April Weaver, who also is on the GSCCC’s board of directors, said the Chamber is planning to continue the program for next year’s ninth-grade students.

“We believe that meeting with these students throughout Shelby County schools once a year, at different stages of their high school careers, will help ensure that Shelby County businesses have the qualified workforce they’ll need in the future,” GSCCC President and CEO Kirk Mancer said.