“You are 25, single, and just starting your career. This is your income based on your career choice. Here is the way it is. You can have no roommates or sharing of expenses. You are on your own,” said John Tynan, who along with Greg Reynolds teach Career Work Ethics at SHS.
For some time, students have been anticipating the workshop sponsored by the University of Illinois, designed to let them take a peek into the reality of paying their own way. Prior to the workshop, students were allowed to pick their career, with come caveats.
“The U of I contacted us about bringing the program to our school. They had a list of careers for students to choose from. They couldn’t just pick one that paid the most money. It had to be a career they were actually interested in,” added Tynan.
The Welcome to the Real World simulation consisted of 10 workstations with handouts and expert advice on banking, transportation, housing. miscellaneous expenses, entertainment, groceries, insurance and clothing.
Armed with their profession and projected salary, 94 students headed into the gym to find out how they might fare on their own. Soon they were picking out cars and insurance, renting or buying homes, budgeting for clothing and entertainment. As the students wrote checks, they quickly watched their earnings slip away. They also learned about the unexpected ‘hits’ that life can give.
Greg Reynolds was handing out ‘chance cards’, much like the game of Monopoly. Most of the cards represented unexpected expenses, just like in real life. “Here’s a broken arm – pay doctor bill; pay kid $25 to mow yard, flat tire, etc.” But occasionally there was a bonus. “Here is one that’s a plus— babysit neighbors’ dog for the weekend, collect $50,” smiled Reynolds.
Mary Beth Massey of the Shelby County U of I Extension Service and Mark Grabb of Grabb Motors, we advising on car purchases and insurance. “These are real world payments, and you haven’t figured your house payments yet. These are some of the basics of budgeting and keeping a check book, “said Massey.
Vonda McConnell of the Shelbyville Chamber of Commerce helped with making wise clothing choices and Traci Cutler of Family Drug covered the miscellaneous category. “This entails the little things in life that are necessary, like soap, toiletries, deodorant, prescriptions, etc. I help them distinguish between needs and wants,” said Cutler.
Glenda Sphar of Shelby Realty-Bitzer and Associates commented, “I talk about what to do if you can rent for $600 or buy for $650. Which is the right option for you? But to afford either, you must first have the income.”
SHS Guidance Counselor Wendy Griesemer worked with Tynan and Reynolds to prepare the students for the exercise. “The Welcome to the Real World Simulation was a great culminating experience for our Career/Work Ethics students. It was very eye-opening for many of them when they realized how difficult it might be to live on a fixed monthly salary,” commented Griesemer.
Student Sam Congenie echoed Griesemer’s comments, “Life will be way harder than I thought, based on what everything costs. I think I will be smarter and more aware for having taken this class and workshop—you sort of gain experience without actually having done it yet.”
Dana Homan, U of I District 19 Youth Educator takes the program to schools in Coles, Moultrie, Douglas, Shelby and Cumberland counties.
Yolanda Nation of the Shelby County U of I extension office worked directly on setting up the program at the school, contacting local professionals to lend their time and expertise. “This is an eye opener for a lot of these students. Some have worked part time jobs, but never had to think about an entire budget.”