Springfield Middle School hosted an On My Own activity for more than 200 scholars in January as preparation for real-world financial realities. The program was presented by the University of Tennessee Extension Service and the SMS Counseling Department.
Eighth grade student Re’Sharia Williams told her teacher, “It made me want to take my education more serious.”
The program is a hands-on, interactive, financial simulation aimed at giving scholars an opportunity to see what adulthood is like. Scholars assume they are 26 years old, no longer living at home and are their own or the primary support for their household.
Based on an interest survey completed before the activity, scholars are assigned a career, a competitive salary and other household information, including whether they are married, single or have a spouse and children to support on their income.
Scholars are given a chance to learn about annual and monthly salaries as well as deductions for taxes, insurance, college loan payments, and other deductions to determine just how much income they will have to spend in a hypothetical month.
After calculating how much money they have each month, scholars are sent through eleven different “stations” that represent items they will need to make it through the month including food, shelter, utilities, transportation, child care and other necessities for their existence.
During this time making the rounds through the stations, Williams realized she could have more control over her future if she took her education more seriously.
Victoria Jennings said, “It gave me a better understanding of life,” and Tystashia Hyde remarked, “Being an adult is hard.” One scholar found he only had $357 of net pay to spend; another only had $3 at the end of his month. One scholar was a cosmetologist and earned $1375 a month. However, childcare for her twins cost $1224. Antonio Silva was overheard saying “Kids are expensive. Don’t have them until you can afford them.”
Several scholars found some innovative ways to spend money, or make life decisions. One scholar found he lacked the funds to purchase a car, so he chose a bicycle to get around. That same scholar also got tossed, “a curve ball,” when he learned he was overdrawn at the bank by nearly $200 and had to take a second job working 12 hours a week at a local fast food restaurant to make ends meet.
When the activity was over, Shannon Hanshew summed up many scholars’ feelings with his comment, “That was fun…really cool! Probably the most fun thing I’ve done all year."
Through the On My Own program, scholars gain an understanding of financial concepts as well as the relationship income has to lifestyle, education, and family size.
After participating in the On My Own event, more than 80% of scholars reported discovering how much money it really takes to get by as well as having a better understanding of their parents’ concerns about money.
Scholars also reported feeling that they needed a good education and plan to obtain more education after high school.