Students learn about real-world costs of living

By KATHY COPELAND / Community Columnist

On Friday, Feb. 23, students at Vincent Middle High School got a taste of what kind of decisions they will be making when they leave home and enter the adult world of real responsibility.

The program designed to make students think about real life situations and the actual cost of living day-to-day is in its fifth year and hosted by the Career Readiness Work Group of the Greater Shelby County Chamber of Commerce.

The program is part class room presentation where students learn about what employers look at when considering a candidate for employment. Keyla Handley, director of Community & Career Development with the Chamber, explained that students are told that employers look at their social media accounts.

They are also given examples of situations where students have been denied a scholarship or a job based on social media postings.  During class time they are also taught the difference between gross and net income.

On the second day, students are randomly assigned real-life scenarios, like being single and attending college with a part-time job or married with two kids and a second job. Then, they are assigned a level of education and a salary broken down by yearly gross income, taxes deducted and take-home pay.

With their worksheets in hand they visit tabletop stations and make spending decisions. Business and chamber member volunteers man stations that include housing, groceries, clothing, insurance, child care and more.

“We appreciate our volunteers who make this program possible. It is through initiatives like this that we can help prepare our future workforce,” said Kirk Mancer, director of the Greater Shelby County Chamber.

Allyson Boyd, who manned the “That’s Life” station, said, “It’s so much fun to watch their expressions when a life event comes up on the dial.” The wheel includes a bonus at work and birthday money, but it also includes getting a flat tire and a speeding ticket. After getting a speeding ticket, one student went back to the clothing table to rethink his choice.  He changed his mind from designer clothing to generic.

The co-sponsors of this year’s event, The UPS Store Caldwell Mill Road and eCO Credit Union Foundation, also had volunteers on hand to assist students with the tabletop budgeting activity. Students expressed true enthusiasm for this experience.

“I enjoyed this,” Jada Kelley said. “It gave me insight into what the future might look like based on my education.”

Another student, when asked if she was learning something, said, “Yes ma’am, I don’t want to grow up anymore!”

Sgt. Major Mary Kyser, JROTC Faculty, came back to the auditorium as the business volunteers were packing up for the day and expressed her gratitude. “I want you to know this does make a difference. The students have been talking among themselves as they go back to their classrooms about their decisions. One student even said it made her realize what her parents have to pay. Another student said he thinks he will stay home and just get a pizza this weekend.”

Kathy Copeland is a community columnist for the city of Vincent and Harpersville and can be reached at bamacopeland82@yahoo.com or (205) 505-9225.