PHS students get taste of adult life

By SCOTT MIMS / Staff Writer

Pelham High School freshmen got a taste of life after graduation Friday, Feb. 14 during The Shelby County Chamber’s Keeping It Real event.

Each participating student is assigned a job title, education background, income and family situation for the two-day event, during which they must stay financially afloat. The students visit booths representing different facets of adult life including financial, housing, transportation, insurance, child care, utilities, groceries, clothing, second job, career training and more.

“I find it really beneficial for freshmen to learn about the basics of finance,” said Mark Teachman, a volunteer with MT Coaching. “I think it helps them to understand the basics of income and expenses.”

The first day of Keeping It Real involves classroom meetings, where students learn job interview tips, budgeting, financial literacy and more. Day two simulates a real-life adult situation, for which they must visit the aforementioned booths.

Students can earn or spend money by visiting each booth. Some booths, such as “That’s Life,” present potentially unexpected expenses while others present opportunities to earn more money through career training or a second job.

Volunteers from businesses around Shelby County work with Chamber members to present the program, which is co-sponsored by Thompson Cat, America’s First Federal Credit Union, AT&T and The UPS Store.

“It’s just to really get them thinking about life outside of high school, just how they’re going to afford that life,” said Pari Barzegari, director of community and career development for the Chamber. “This is a great time to start a conversation with your parents or guardians.”

Katie Cardwell, career coach with Pelham City Schools, said the program is “eye-opening” because the salary amounts used during the simulations are based on local statistics, and students must also learn to deduct taxes.

“It helps them prepare for their future,” Cardwell said. “We’re thankful for the investment the Chamber has in our students. We really love that it’s so interactive. We love how realistic it is.”