Breckenridge Texan

AgriLife Extension, InterBank program teaches ‘Real World’ lessons to BHS students

AgriLife Extension, InterBank program teaches ‘Real World’ lessons to BHS students
June 06
08:29 2022

By Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

A couple of weeks before they graduated, Breckenridge High School seniors had an opportunity to participate in the “Welcome to the Real World” program, which was designed to teach high school students the skills they need to financially navigate the adult world.

The program, which was sponsored by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and InterBank in partnership with the high school, also included BHS juniors.

Luke Grider with InterBank offers financial advice to BHS students during the “Welcome to the Real World” program last month. (Photo by Tony Pilkington / Breckenridge Texan)

When the students arrived at the gym on May 9, they were randomly handed a packet of information that assigned them an occupation with a specified monthly salary, as well as the amount they would have to pay in taxes and student loan. Then, they visited tables set up around the room, where they worked out their monthly budgets, based on their salaries and personal interests.

The job spectrum was very broad, AgriLife Extension Agent Sumer Russell said. The occupations included teacher, rancher, welder, fast-food restaurant worker and other professions. The program featured a variety of jobs with varying levels of skills and education requirements.

Additionally, there were some other random details for each student. For example, about 10 percent of the participants were designated to have a child that they were supporting. About 25 percent were college graduates.

Once they had their job and salary assignments, the students started making decisions about how to spend and save their money.  At the housing table, they could choose between living in a rented apartment or house or buying their own home. Two students could team up as roommates and split the bills. If they chose to live at home with their parents, they were expected to contribute to the monthly expenses there.

At the transportation table, they decided what type of car they wanted to drive and worked out the payment plan for their choice. There were also tables for groceries and household expenses, entertainment, clothing and charitable giving.

One of the stations was the Reality Wheel, which each student spun to see what life would send their way. The items on the wheel were real-life type situations that adults deal with every day, such as “Got caught speeding,” which had expenses attached to it. Other options were things like “Car breaks down — $150,” “Your new puppy chews your work shoes. Pay $75 to replace them.” and “You spill a drink on computer keyboard. Replacement is $35.” There were also some beneficial options, such as “Boss gives you a $100 bonus.”

One of the tasks in the “Welcome to the Real World” program was writing a thank you letter. (Photo by Tony Pilkington / Breckenridge Texan)

At the entertainment table, the students chose whether or not to go to the movies, eat out, attend a concert or sports event, join a fitness club, pursue a hobby, take a vacation, etc.

Once they were finished with their choices, the students then had to see how their budgets held up. If they had spent more than they earned, they had to go back to the tables and make different choices. If they couldn’t figure it out on their own, The financial adviser table, staffed by InterBank employees, offered advice.

Along the way, they learned skills such as how to balance a budget and a bank account, write a check and write a thank you note. Local community members volunteered to help at each table, advising the students along their way.

“All of the students have been very engaged,” Russell said. “They’ve had fun with it, but they’ve taken it seriously.”

The program wrapped up with a talk by Dr. Jason Johnson, an associate professor and extension economist-management with the AgriLife Extension Service in Stephenville. He talked to the students about what they need to be successful in life.

“Knowledge, skills and ability — those are the things that are the key to earning a higher salary,” Johnson said. “There is no singular path, but it all requires knowledge, skills and ability.”

He encouraged the students to talk to someone who is successful at a job they’re interested in and ask them about the pros and cons of the job. He also said that it’s very difficult to become wealthy on just a salary. One option for making more money is to create a side business from a hobby or other interest.

But, the basic lesson of the “Welcome to the Real World” program boiled down to one thing Johnson said: “If you do this one thing, you will become wealthy, and if you don’t do this one thing, you won’t become wealthy — spend less than you bring in. It’s not complicated.”

Click here to see the Breckenridge Texan’s Photo Gallery from the “Welcome to the Real World” program.

Dr. Jason Johnson, with the AgriLife Extension Service in Stephenville, talked to the students at the end of the “Welcome to the Real World” program about what it takes to become wealthy in today’s world. (Photo by Tony Pilkington / Breckenridge Texan)

Cutline, top photo: Breckenridge High School spin the “Reality Wheel” during the ArgiLife Extension’s “Welcome to the Real World” program last month. The wheel presented them with unexpected, real-life scenarios, such as “Your dog was sick. Pay the vet $100.” Click here to see the photo gallery from the event. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)



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