Preparing for the ‘real world’ can be difficult, but Thedford Public Schools and other Educational Service Unit 17 schools are doing their best to make sure students have an idea of what life is like after high school.
Thedford Business and Computer Teacher Jamie Taylor, along with other teachers within the ESU 17 district, began designing a program a few years ago aimed at helping students understand how to navigate life after graduation. The program “Into to Life” focused on real-world scenarios, life skills, and budgeting to help students gain an understanding of how expensive life can be.
Taylor said the idea first came about after Yutan Public Schools had held an event called Game of Life which centered on life skills. She stated the business teachers wanted to add the budgeting aspect with the life skills to create the most real-world scenarios they could. Due to the pandemic, it was not until this past March the schools could put the program to the test.
Taylor mentioned that with the change in Nebraska law requiring personal finance prior to graduation beginning with the Class of 2023, it was important to put these lessons to the test as early as possible. She felt having the sophomores go through the program would be more beneficial than waiting until the kids were seniors and it being too late.
According to Taylor, around 150 students from six area schools in the ESU 17 district participated in the event including Ainsworth, Cody-Kilgore, Keya Paha, Rock Round, Thedford, and Valentine. For the Thedford students, Taylor said she tried to match the jobs available through the simulation with the interests of the students to make it as relatable as possible. Students would then go through each required station to fill out their budget worksheet with the end goal of making sure each dollar was accounted for.
“One student came up and was $915 dollars in the hole and so we said, ‘what are some things you can do because you have some higher-end things and you don’t make enough money to cover that.’ Those were some good lessons to learn too,” said Taylor.
To make it as realistic as possible, area businesses donated their time and expertise in each field to assist the students on the budget. Bankers, car dealerships, cell phone companies, and numerous others assisted throughout the event.
In addition to the budget part of the event, students rotated through other programs including a strength finder program, auto and tire, and other life skill stations.
“Make it as relatable to the kids as possible so they see the relevance of it,” added Taylor.
As with any program the business teachers will work with ESU to fine-tune the program to make it as effective as possible. Taylor noted the group is already looking to add ag careers to the job list along with adding in a first aid station.
“We really tried to hit on everything,” said Taylor. “I think we had a really great team with us business teachers and we were able to really add to it and enrich it and I think a lot of the sophomores left that day learning a lot and getting a lot of good things out of the day.”