‘Get A Life’

Program teaches budgeting skills

The Inter-Mountain photos by Beth Henry-Vance Makayla Judy, right, and other sixth-grade students at Elkins Middle School participate in a budget program called ‘Get A Life,’ which is presented by the West Virginia State Treasurer’s Office and is designed to show examples of real-life expenses

ELKINS — Students at Elkins Middle School got a glimpse Tuesday of adult budgeting problems in the “Get A Life” program presented by the West Virginia State Treasurer’s Office.

By “purchasing” a car, a house, furniture, groceries, insurance and more at different stations set up and operated by volunteers in the school gym, students were able to see how quickly their monthly income could dwindle if they did not pursue higher education or make wise budget decisions.

“Not only are they learning math skills and budgeting, but hopefully they’re also learning career planning and the emphasis that the more education you get, the higher your salary should be,” said Pat Ramsburg, coordinator for Get A Life, who takes the program to middle and high schools throughout the state. “It’s fun. The kids are always engaged, and having a good time.”

Ramsburg said students are given individual “life cards” and track their family’s monthly expenses, first with a job they could obtain with a high school diploma, and later with different types of careers that require some type of additional education.

The “Green Reaper,” portrayed Tuesday by math teacher Dana Losh, also visited students and gave out cards with unexpected expenses.

Elkins Middle School sixth-graders Josh Arbogast, left, and Zack Bonnell participate in a budget program Tuesday called ‘Get A Life.’ The program teaches students about how important budgeting and using money wisely will be to them as adults.

For sixth-grader Haylee Woods, her unexpected expense was throwing an anniversary party, which cost her $120.

“I can’t fit that into my budget,” Woods said, saying the program was fun but everything is very expensive. “You have to get the lowest things, like cars and houses, so you have money for other things, like groceries. … I made a bad choice with (paying for) the internet and now I’m in the minus.”

Fellow student Josh Arbogast had to pay an unexpected expense of $70 for paint supplies.

Arbogast said he enjoyed the program.

“It teaches you what to do when you’re an adult and teaches you not to spend all your money at one time,” he said.

Sixth-grader Makayla Judy also said the money management lessons were interesting.

“I’ve been picking the ones that cost the least,” she said of the various purchase options. “I think it’s pretty fun.”

Meanwhile, fellow sixth-grader Cody Roy called it “tricky,” especially how to handle insurance and all the deductions.

Idress Gooden, who serves as an adolescent health coordinator for RESA 7, was one of the volunteers Tuesday. She was helping students calculate how much money they would need to spend on gas, after they had selected their cars and homes.

Gooden said it was fun hearing the students’ comments.

“Suddenly they say, ‘Oh my, I’m out of money. What am I gonna do?'” she said with a laugh.

School counselors Jill Zurbuch and Roohi Khan said Principal Chris Hamrick heard about the program and wanted them to help organize it. They made arrangements for a large group of volunteers to help with the stations for students, such as parents, retired teachers, people from civic organizations and other agencies.

“It’s just amazing how much support we have from the community, and the kids are really enjoying it,” Zurbuch said. “I think the volunteers are enjoying it, too.”

Khan said she heard one student say they don’t want to be an adult.

“They are really getting a reality check,” Khan said.

All students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades at Elkins Middle School will get the opportunity to go through the program. Half of them went through it Tuesday, and the remaining students will be able to “Get A Life” at school today.

More information on the program is available under “education” at the website www.wvtreasury.com.