Jeanette A. Tucker, Bailey, Beverly A., LeBlanc, Scuddy J., Burl, Melanie D., Coolman, Denise, Cross, Deborah C., Morgan, Johnny W.
News Release Distributed 02/27/04
Students across Louisiana are learning what it takes to "make ends meet" through programs offered by the LSU AgCenter.
Known as "Welcome to the Real World" and "Reality Store," the educational sessions allow students to play out scenarios that show them what their parents and other adults experience in attempting to earn a living, pay bills, buy food and other chores involved in life.
Eighth graders from Jackson and LaPlace recently had a chance to participate. And a group in Shreveport – as well as many others – will learn about the real world in the weeks to come.
They’re just some of the Louisiana youngsters who are learning what life is like in the real world, according to LSU AgCenter family economist Dr. Jeanette Tucker, who says these programs are designed to let young people have fun while learning serious lessons.
"The programs let students experience situations that adults face almost every day," Tucker said. "Young people discover how difficult it can be for families to make ends meet. It is an eye-opening experience."
The programs follow similar paths, Tucker says, explaining that the "Welcome to the Real World" program has one feature not found in "Reality Store" – opening bank accounts.
"With ‘Reality Store,’ the students just keep up with their budgets on sheets, but ‘Welcome to the Real World’ has the added step of a station that is set up like a bank – where they go through the process of opening a bank account," she explained. "Then they use checks to pay expenses and track the balance in their (make-believe) bank account."
Beverly Bailey, an LSU AgCenter 4-H agent in East Feliciana Parish, and Melanie Burl, an AgCenter 4-H agent in St. John, both have been teaching real life skills to students in their area.
Bailey said the Jackson Middle School students experienced "budget shock" during a "Welcome to the Real World" program at their school.
Bailey and Jackson Middle School teacher Allison Adams coordinated the program involving 90 students in a life-like simulation focusing on financial management skills and career exploration.
"For the program, eighth grade students were told they were 25 year olds, had a job and were living on their own without financial help from their parents," Bailey said.
Volunteers from local businesses and the community helped teach and sponsor the sessions – providing as much of the image that students were dealing with real businesses as possible.
At East St. John Elementary School, Burl’s students went through the same type of exercise. The students randomly picked career cards that listed their make-believe occupations, their monthly incomes and their monthly withholdings.
"This way the students don’t have a choice of occupation or salary," Burl explained.
The students then made numerous decisions about their lifestyles.
"After calculating their net income, the students opened savings accounts and checking accounts with the assistance of local bank employees," Burl said.
Once the students had an idea of what they would have to spend, they were off to make real-life decisions.
"The students were given a checkbook balance and each one had to make decisions about where they would live and what kind of car they would own," Burl said. "They had to decide whether they would pay the phone bill or the cable TV bill."
In both of the schools, community volunteers manned the various stations and explained the options available to the students and gave tips to help them in the decision-making process.
Adrian Felton, an East St. John Parish eight grader who wants to go to UCLA to become an architect, said he learned that it’s hard being a grownup.
"I see that it’s tough paying for a place to stay, buying groceries and paying for insurance," Felton said, adding he didn’t realize how important having life insurance is and that he would like to see the "Welcome to the Real World" program taught to younger kids.
LSU AgCenter Area Community and Economic Development Agent Deborah Cross, who was a participant at the East St. John program, explained how the program works in the schools.
"Actually the students go through three days of classroom instruction before they get to the hands-on activity," Cross said. "They are taught about budgets, careers and the need for higher education in order to get a higher paying job."
She said the program also helps the schools with their core curriculum, which prepares the students for the LEAP Test.
In the program, the students pass through a series of stations to pay their major monthly bills like housing, transportation and insurance.
"Then they move on to groceries, clothing and entertainment for the month," Cross explained. "The final booth is called the Deck of Chance. At this booth students get to pick a card that tells what happens in their life today. Sometimes it’s something good that happens to them – like it’s their birthday and they get $50 – or it can be something bad like they have a dental bill."
LSU AgCenter agents around the state are bringing these programs to Louisiana youth. Tenth grade students at Green Oaks High School in Caddo Parish will experience real-life issues as they shop at the "Reality Store" on April 7.
The "Reality Store" is a simulation game similar to the one being held at other Louisiana schools in which students identify career interests and receive a mock budget with monthly income entered for their specific career, said Lola Boone, an LSU AgCenter agent in Caddo Parish. The AgCenter is collaborating with the Shreveport campus of Southern University for this project.
"We will have booths set up concerning real-life issues and manned by community volunteers," Boone said. "For example, the students will visit booths concerning taxes, utilities, groceries, automobile dealership, insurances, contributions, clothing, entertainment and so forth. They will have to pay for the services rendered."
Louise McDonald, another LSU AgCenter agent in Caddo Parish, said the program is designed to help students learn skills in financial planning, goal-setting, decision-making and career planning.
"It also will allow students to examine their attitudes about their future careers, earnings and lifestyles," McDonald said. "And, of course, the students will get an opportunity to interact with community volunteers."
Similar programs also have been offered in Concordia, East Baton Rouge, Jefferson, Livingston, Tangipahoa and Vermilion parishes, as well as others. For more information on this program – and other programs about agriculture, economics, environment, health and other topics offered by the LSU AgCenter – visit your parish LSU AgCenter office or go to www.lsuagcenter.com.
Beverly Bailey at (225) 683-3101 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Melanie Burl at (985) 497-3261 or email@example.com
Deborah Cross at (225) 642-2044 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Scuddy LeBlanc at (985) 543-4129 or email@example.com
Jeanette Tucker at (225) 578-5398 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Johnny Morgan at (504) 838-1170 or email@example.com
Denise Coolman at (318) 644-5865 or firstname.lastname@example.org