The West Virginia State Treasurer's Office visited Beckley Stratton Middle School Wednesday to sponsor their "Get A Life" workshop, a program designed to teach students basic life skills such as forming a budget, buying a vehicle and paying utilities. 

As seventh grade students entered the gymnasium, they were surrounded by a number of different stations with volunteers at each. At the first station, students picked up a red card which featured a job they could receive right after high school without further education. 

The red cards featured jobs such as stock clerk, concrete pourer, receptionist, etc. The card gave a description of each job, its annual salary and also provided students with the number of children they had to take care of and monthly deductions. 

From there, students would take their red card and budget sheet plastered with a checklist of things they needed, and went to other stations to pay their expenses while keeping track of their annual salary, the amount they were able to spend. 

Volunteers at stations assisted students with buying a house and car, purchasing furniture for their home and gas for their car and paying utilities and insurance. 

A "Grim Reaper" was also walking around the gymnasium and would give students cards at random, featuring an unexpected incident in their life they may have to pay for. Some of the cards included taking your pet to the veterinarian, a broken arm, or a loved one getting married, requiring you to purchase a wedding gift.  

Jamie Horton, Administrative Assistant for the State Treasurer's Office, said the program was designed primarily for middle school students to assist in giving them a dose of real life. 

"We are hoping since there is such a lack of home economic courses in schools nowadays that this would give them a good basis of the real world," Horton said, "and hopefully also show them what they might get if they don't pursue higher education." 

The program is an eye-opener for students who don't plan on furthering their education by attending college or a vocational school, she said, and it will help them realize the problems they may face in life. 

Upon going through the motions and stopping at each station with their red card job, students went through the cycle again, but this time with a green card, featuring a job that required attending vocational school or college. 

The green cards would display a higher paying job than those on a red card. Horton said students often realized they were able to purchase a nicer car, house and appliances upon having a card that required higher education. 

"These students are going to be out in the real world very soon," Horton said. "Having them perform an exercise like this will encourage them to make good life choices, and realize how much life really costs." 

Financial Eduction Coordinator Barbara Ray said by targeting middle school students through the program, more students will want to go on and pursue a higher education. 

"The Treasurer, John Perdue, finds that if middle school students take this workshop and then form their four year plan in high school, they are more than likely to take higher education more seriously," she said. 

Ray said students found it interesting that when they had a job with a higher education, they were able to purchase the more expensive house and car. 

"They end up realizing that the higher paying job will often get them more out of life." 

Sophia Hall said participating in the workshop gave her a real idea of what her parents go through for her and her sister. 

Hall, a seventh grader at BSMS, thought forming a budget helped her realize that you have to purchase the things you really need in life before buying the newest iPhone. 

"It showed me that I really have to pay attention to what's necessary," she said, "not just the things I really want." 

Hall was a truck loader at first, before receiving her green card and becoming a physician. 

"At first I only made around $20,000 a year," she said, "and I really struggled. But then after having a job with an education, it was a lot easier." 

Hall said the workshop has encouraged her to continue her journey in becoming a nurse anesthetist one day. 

"After doing this, I'm glad I've chosen to go to college one day. I'll be able to not only get the stuff I'll need, but also the stuff I'll want." 

Donte Bowman also participated in the workshop and said learning the idea of a budget was a whole new experience for him, but he was really glad he got the chance to experience it. 

"I realize that if you don't get some form of higher education then it will be really hard to find a job that will support you for years to come," Bowman said. "But if you go to college and you get a good education it's easier to get a good job, have a family, and do everything you want to do."

Bowman hopes to take his passion for photography with him to college and get a degree in the field. 

"Doing this workshop has just made me feel like I'm making the right decision with that. It's all really given me the encouragement, and hopefully everyone else, to pursue a higher education." 

— Email: jnelson@register-herald.com; follow on Twitter @jnelsonRH 

Email: jnelson@register-herald.com; follow on Twitter @jnelsonRH

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