Magnolia High School seniors on Wednesday were inundated with a dose real-world planning as a special program was held at Panther Arena to prepare the soon-to-be graduates for adult life. The seminar, called Get Real ‚Äď Here‚Äôs The Deal, was sponsored by the Columbia County Cooperative Extension Service and aided by numerous local businesses, banks, and agencies as they laid out financial and lifestyle options for the students.
‚ÄúWhat you‚Äôre about to go through is, I think, a pretty unique opportunity,‚ÄĚ said MHS Principal Chris Carter as he addressed the senior class.
Every senior was presented with a unique fictional adulthood situation. Some were ‚Äúmarried‚ÄĚ with no children, a working spouse and high-paying jobs, some were ‚Äúsingle‚ÄĚ with multiple children and a not-so-high-paying job, and everywhere in-between. The students based on their given income and family situation were tasked with purchasing real-world necessities ‚ÄĒ automobiles, car insurance, mortgage-rent, child care, health care, utilities, education, food and nutrition, home furnishings, entertainment options, etc. ‚ÄĒ all within a certain budget. At each of the 12 stations, a local expert or professional in that field was on hand to guide the students through their situation.
‚ÄúThis program was actually partially developed by Shirley Hopkins who was in my position for a long time, but we‚Äôve tweaked it a little bit,‚ÄĚ said Michele Baskin, family and consumer science agent at Columbia County Cooperative Extension Service and former 17-year instructor at MHS. ‚ÄúIt used to be a three-day seminar.‚ÄĚ
Students were also issued sample check books to balance their finances and introduced to terms such as ‚Äúnet‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúgross‚ÄĚ income, as well as a little something called taxes.
‚ÄúYou have to deduct your taxes before you ever get started,‚ÄĚ Baskin said to the seniors. ‚ÄúIf you get that first paycheck and it doesn‚Äôt have as much on it as you thought ‚ÄĒ that‚Äôs the government.‚ÄĚ
After moving station to station all morning, students submitted their balanced or near balanced checkbooks. By raise of hands, many of the 200-plus students of the MHS senior class indicated they were frustrated in the financial process, but also showed they were able to come away with a zero or positive balance at the end of the session.
‚ÄúSome things are going to be harder [after high school] to figure out than other things,‚ÄĚ said one student.
Another senior even discovered something new about herself and her spending habits.
‚ÄúI learned that I‚Äôm cheap,‚ÄĚ she said.
In closing the panel discussion Anette Pate, vice president at BancorpSouth in Magnolia, encouraged the students to remember what they learned and that the professionals in the arena on the day were there to aid them.
‚ÄúJust remember who we are and where we are,‚ÄĚ she said, ‚Äúwe‚Äôre there for you. These are good resources for anything you need.‚ÄĚ