Students learn real-life math (community column)

By Kathy Copeland

On a chilly, rainy Friday, Feb. 22, The Shelby County Chamber was conducting “Keeping it Real” at Vincent Middle High School—a county wide program designed to inspire students to think about the kinds of decisions associated with real life situations.

Kirk Mancer, Chamber director, greeted students with, “We are excited to be here, are you?! It’s a great day to be a Yellow Jacket, right?”

The program, hosted by the Chamber’s Career Readiness Work Group, is designed to give students opportunities to think about the actual cost of living day to day. Mancer explained to students that the trip around the auditorium from table to table is based on a 30-day cycle.

“If you find yourself with a negative balance half way through, don’t panic,” he cautioned.

Students were told that there would be tables where decisions can earn money and tables where decisions would cost money. “The goal is to end your 30-day or monthly budgeting exercise with money in your account, Mancer emphasized.

Students filed out of the bleachers with worksheets in hand. Once they approached a tabletop stations, the decisions began. Each student was assigned a life scenario which included a salary, job type and family status. Some were single, some were married with children, some single parents.

Their monthly salary had to cover decisions about cars, housing, groceries, insurance, getting a second job or advancing their education.

“I learned that spending money and trying not to get in debt is harder than it looks,” said Savana Matthews. “And, there is a lot of math!” Alston Blackburn said with a smile, “I learned how to use and conserve my money.”

Students quickly learned that their salary did not exactly provide for the type of car they wanted to drive, especially when the correlating insurance price tag was revealed. And, the groans from the “That’s Life” table were usually the result of a speeding ticket or a flat tire. Clapping and happy shouts could be heard when the wheel provided for a bonus at work or birthday money.

“I am having fun,” said Lillie Searcy. Madeline Goss said, “This class was fun and taught me about the real world and how money works.” Dr. LaJuana Hamer, career coach with Shelby County Schools, said, “This is such great experience for our students;” giving high fives and fist bumps to students that passed her station.

The presenting sponsor for the two-day program was Thompson Tractor with co-sponsors AT&T, America’s First and The UPS Store Caldwell Mill.

Pari Barzegari, community and career development manager for the Chamber expressed gratitude for the volunteers that helped by spending their time at the school engaged with the students. “I am a new staff member with the Chamber, so I especially appreciate the companies who have volunteers here,” she said.

“A big thank you to: Grace (Hughes) and Robin (King) of America’s First, Gina (McDonald) from Gina H. McDonald and Associates and Kelly (Foster) from First U.S. Bank,” said Barzegari.