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ON MY OWN: Students explore life after high school

High school students in Washington County recently had the opportunity to participate in a hands-on, real-life simulation that taught them about finances.
Connie Sharp, County Director and Extension Agent III, 4-H Youth Development for the University of Tennessee Extension office in Washington County, said she has been doing the “On Your Own” program for eight or nine years.
“On Your Own” is a two-day simulation affair that takes place at both high schools, David Crockett and Daniel Boone.
“It encourages critical thinking and problem solving,” Sharp said.
Sharp recently met with 218 kids at David Crockett and 67 kids at Daniel Boone. Sharp visits David Crockett twice a year after the students’ complete their personal finance and economics courses and four times a year at Daniel Boone after they complete personal finance classes.
The students’ age during the simulation is set at 25.
The first day, Sharp spends time talking to the students about personality types before they take a personality test to discover if they are an organizer, doer, creator, thinker, helper or persuader.
After their personality is determined, students go around the room looking for an occupation that is geared toward that personality. Once a career is chosen, they are allowed to view the back of a card that shares salary information. The salary is based on starting salaries in that particular career in the State of Tennessee.
“They have to draw on credit,” she explained. “Some owe up to $15,000.”
Sharp said she talks to the students about family budgets and savings before they draw for their family scenarios.
Sharp said she also teaches them about check writing and why it is important to write checks in today’s society. She said she tells the students that some mom and pop shops do not take credit cards because it is an added expense.
The following day, the students visit 12 booths with such real life scenarios as Big Money Bank & Credit; Community Health & Wellness; Curve Ball (life happenings); High Maintenance Insurance; In the Dark Utilities; Kiddie Child Care; Lick Your Chops Grocery; Living Large Realty; Major Mullah Mall; Motor Mania Transportation; and Party Alley.
Sharp said the students have to figure out whether they can afford purchasing or renting the various housing options available. They also have to determine the number of bedrooms needed based on the ages and numbers of kids they have.
When the students visit the grocery store booth, they have to budget enough food for their family for a month, as well as personal care items.
When items are purchased at each booth, the students have to write a check for their goods.
“If you write it in your checkbook register, then it becomes a tool for you to use in the budget,” she said. “That made them realize where the money was going and taught them about math. We want them to learn the math.”
She said by the end of the simulation, the students have to put $50 into savings, and their check register cannot be in the negative. Sharp said she encourages the students to have at least $300 in the bank just in case of an emergency.
A survey revealed that 67 percent of the students were really considering getting a college degree after going through the simulation.
“They are definitely getting it,” Sharp said.
The students were graded on their participation, their math, as well as an essay that touched upon what they would do if they could change their scenario.
The boards that Sharp has for the 12 booths have been in use since the curriculum was first developed.
She said she changes the information on the boards every five years because it takes a while to research everything.
“I don’t want to continue to use the old stuff with new information,” she said. “I want to get the new boards.”
The new boards will cost about $2,000 and will showcase new averages based on Tennessee figures. Sharp is seeking donations and sponsorships for the boards.
Those interested can call her at 753-1680.ON MY OWN