PHOTOS BY CHRISTINA McCUNE | DGKN
Austin Klump and Kaden Hevia, Dalton sixth-grade students are helped by Lisa Elett and Tara Berkey at one of the booths May 20 in the Dalton Elementary & Middle School gym for a financial literacy program.
Jara Zoldak and Lexi Snyder make it to the “finish line” at the end of the “Real Money, Real World,” financial literacy program at Dalton Middle School.
DALTON What’s the matter with money? Well, as the saying goes, money can’t buy happiness, but it sure can make life a bit easier.
Dalton sixth-grade and eighth-grade students learned last week that even if they were to make $400 at the end of the week from a full-time job that pays $10 an hour, that exact amount may not end up in the bank. After paying for common expenses that we all need to live such as transportation, clothing, food and insurance, the amount dwindles even more. With what they have left, can they afford basic or designer clothing? What kind of house can they buy? Do they still have college loans?
What if something unexpected happens – like a speeding ticket?
Offered in-person for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic, students went through a “Real Money. Real World.” financial literacy program offered through The Ohio State University extension office and parents, business representatives, high school students and other volunteers set up more than a dozen booths in the Dalton Elementary & Middle School gymnasium.
“I think they’re learning about how education, careers and income are connected to each other,” said Melissa Carathers, DEMS school counselor. ”I also think this gives them an experience that allows them to see what their parents go through.”
Budgeting is a main point of the program, Carathers said. Students select or randomly choose a career. They begin with a gross monthly income. They learn about deductions such as taxes, retirement, savings, insurance, food, housing, child care and transportation. They gain knowledge that they can take with them through the rest of their schooling and life, and they can bring that food for thought home.
“It stimulates conversations with their parents, I think that’s so important too,” she said. “To start talking about money, future education and career goals. I challenge the kids in class to go home and have conversations and a lot of them would. One student told me it turned into ‘an hour conversation of what I’m going to do.’ It really is a great conversation starter.”
The school resource officer at DEMS passed out speeding tickets and caught without insurance tickets.
“That’s the reality of life,” Carathers said.
Just like the board game, Life, and real life, of course, the students work hard to get to the finish line. They learn, make decisions and make deductions at each booth. A couple situations arise where they may add money, she said. They may experience a random chance where they received a birthday gift or if they have a lower income they may qualify for government assistance programs.
“The goal is to get through all the booths and the volunteers initial at the bottom and they come to the finish line and they go through to see how they did,” she said.
Two of the high school volunteers, Enten Guster and Quentin Lehman, were at the finish line doing a check of students’ work and also offering a piece of candy as a fun prize. The pair said they remembered going through the program and Guster said just as the program is repeated in sixth grade and eighth grade, he suggested that high school students also may benefit to go through the program one more time before graduating.
Sixth-grader Austin Klump was just getting started and said it was fun going booth to booth. With clipboard in hand he stopped in at Tara Berkey and Lisa Elett’s booth which gave clothing options before continuing onto his next stop.
Melinda Hill, Family and Consumer Sciences educator, takes the program to all the schools in Wayne County. The program is in collaboration with the 4-H program. Every county in the state has an extension office and the program is offered through the extension office.
“It’s working with youth and it’s life skills,” she said.
Students learn that career choice can correlate between grades and getting the vocation of their choice whether it be a trade or college, and understand their pay check will be hit with many deductions including Social Security and taxes, she said. Students learn about the importance of savings and retirement, she said.