HOPE – It is not the real deal, but it is a lesson about learning to get real.
“Get Real – Here’s the Deal” is a program of the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service that introduces ninth grade students at Hope High School to life lessons in familial responsibility and financial planning.
“They have been very helpful to us,” HHS Keystone/Leadership teacher Kelly Muldrew said Wednesday morning as students began the exercise in the auxiliary gymnasium.
She said for the “Get Real” exercise that each student is given a parent/family profile which includes parameters such as marital status, children, employment and educational attainment. Income is established on a monthly gross in the profile, with all applicable taxes and profile-specific costs, such as child support payments deducted, to demonstrate their effect.
“It’s a great way to show these students how things work,” Terrie James, Hempstead County UA Extension Chair, said.
The entire program consists of three sessions, including a class preparation day, the exercise, and follow-up discussion, according to UA Extension information.
Objectives include an understanding of personal financial management; banking and related skills such as check writing, balancing a checkbook, and debit card use; awareness of the impact of tax structures; budgeting; educational impact upon economic potential; and, relationships between occupational and familial responsibilities.
The exercise profiles are randomly assigned by the Extension Service.
“They have to follow what is in their profile,” Muldrew said.
The students make their way through some 12 different life venues, including basic nutrients (groceries), transportation, childcare guidance/development, utilities, comfortable living (housing), entertainment, shopping, emergencies, insurance, banking, education, and personal appearance.
Each student is required to deal with the needs of his or her profile in the venues that apply, with most students learning to balance a paycheck against needs versus desires.
“If you get a card that doesn’t have a good-paying job and deductions are coming out, it’s the luck of the draw; kind of like life,” Muldrew said.
Muldrew and HHS business teacher Anthony Meeker agree that the impact upon the students is evident.
“It’s a real eye-opener,” Meeker said.
The entire ninth grade student body completed the exercise component Wednesday, and Muldrew and Meeker planned follow-up discussions with the students on Thursday.
“We will balance out their cards in class,” Muldrew said. “I’ve been talking to them about how education extends your opportunities in life. Here, they’ve already looked at what minimum wage does.”
Community volunteers played roles from bankers to grocers to mall sales clerks to high-pressure car salesmen throughout the exercise. Volunteers participating included Ruth Cook, John Watkins, Clay Lance, Wade Townsend, Steve Harris, Vicki Bennett, Sandra May, Shelda Garland, Sylvia Brown, Clay Wingfield, Sheila Ballard, Kim Rowe, Edie Greenwood, Sheba Smith, Mary Ann McPherson, Lorena Cuellar, Jodi Coffee, Sherri Pote, Whitney Rook, Brad Prince, Josh Jones, Leon Prince, Bobby Hart, Kim Smith, Judy Flowers, and Rodney Orr.
She said the UA Extension service has been an ongoing partner with her students, providing nutrition programs such as “Kids in the Kitchen,” youth service such 4-H Club, and other hands-on concepts.
The ninth grade class, in conjunction with the Hempstead County Master Gardener Program, is also involved in a campus beautification project which will help resolve a drainage problem on the HHS front lawn, Muldrew said.