HHS freshmen learn budgeting, life skills through ‘Keeping it Real’ program

By GRAHAM BROOKS / Staff Writer

HELENA – Freshmen at Helena High School had the opportunity to fast forward time on Friday, March 1, and see themselves with a career, a spouse or children and most importantly, how to budget finances, thanks to the Shelby County Chamber’s Keeping it Real program.

Officials with the Shelby County Chamber and several local business owners set up in the media center of Helena High School with the goal of teaching the difference between gross and net income and the importance of budgeting.

For many students, the experience was an eye opener as it pertained to how much things cost in life as students were heard saying things like “I only have $67 left” or “I think I’m in debt.”

In the program, Keeping it Real provided students with mock incomes and careers as they went from station to station selecting housing, utilities, transportation, insurance and childcare based on their monthly income. Students also had to budget for groceries and had the option of purchasing a cell phone, cable and Internet. Shelby County business professionals manned the stations and helped the kids figure out the best options for their situation.

Freshmen at Helena High School participated in the program through the career prep class offered at the school. Clif Naron, who serves as one of the career tech teachers, said it’s funny to see how students prioritize where their money should go initially.

“They’ll put $100 in savings and then it’s funny to watch them go to the other stations and when they get finished they’ll have negative money,” Naron.

When reflecting on the program, Helena High School freshman Charlie McKinney was taken by surprise with how much insurance cost.

“I was surprised by insurance and how expensive it was,” McKinney said. “I had one child and was assigned the career of a teacher. It just made me have so much more appreciation for my parents too after seeing how much everything costs.”

Alyssa Chambliss, another HHS freshman, also learned some valuable information through the Keeping it Real program.

“I definitely didn’t realize how much utilities cost but it helped me out when I added a second job for more income,” Chambliss said.

For more information on Keeping it Real or to volunteer at upcoming programs, visit Shelbychamber.org.

The program is set to visit Chelsea High School on Thursday, March 14.