Program teaches Hamilton Middle School students life expenses

Photo by Michael Erb Pat Ramsburg with the West Virginia State Treasurer’s Office speaks to Hamilton MIddle School eighth-graders about the expenses they’ll face as part of the “Get A Life” financial education program.

PARKERSBURG — Hamilton Middle School eighth-graders learned a valuable lesson Friday on how expensive it can be to get a life.

The “Get A Life” program is sponsored by the West Virginia State Treasurer’s Office and challenges students to navigate the financial hurdles of life, such as paying a mortgage, buying a car and having insurance, as well as the expenses of family and unexpected events.

Booths were set up in the Hamilton gymnasium, representing everything from car dealers to utilities. Students were randomly given jobs and a set amount of money, then challenged to pay for their expenses.

Pat Ramsburg with the West Virginia State Treasurer’s Office said the program is offered to schools throughout the state and at various grade levels, but is especially geared toward middle school students who are in the early stages of planning their careers.

“It’s career building and its also a budgeting activity, so they get some experience how to keep a check register,” she said. “The first job is a high-school diploma job, and they are 10 years out of high school and have a family to support. They’re just buying the basics and we know they are going to struggle. After they’ve bought everything, half of them will be in the red.”

Photo by Michael Erb From left, Hamilton Middle School eighth-graders Haley Grant, Emily Cunningham and Maycheighjo Harman huddle while looking at cars to purchase as part of the “Get A Life” financial education program Friday at the school.

The students then had the chance to get a higher-paying job, one requiring more education, and to go through the process again with the knowledge they’d learned.

“They trade for a job that has some sort of certification required beyond high school,” Ramsburg said. “Their income doubles, sometimes triples depending on the luck of the draw. They start over again, and they shouldn’t be in the red the second time.”

Ramsburg said some of the everyday expenses are the hardest for students to accept.

“They don’t like to buy groceries. The price of things surprises them. They don’t realize what it takes to put food on the table. Children are very expensive,” she said. “They don’t have to buy insurance. But if they pull a card and it says you have three cavities and they don’t have any dental insurance, well you have to pay for that.”

Throughout the session, the “Green Reaper” wandered the floor, randomly handing out unexpected expenses to students.

Photo by Michael Erb Hamilton Middle School eighth-graders Shy Fury, left, and Donald McFee, right, listen to instructions Friday at the start of the “Get A Life” financial education program, which challenges students to budget for things like cars, homes and insurance, while balancing the expense of family and unexpected events.

“Maybe you have to take your dog to the vet. Maybe a shingle blew off your roof. You got a speeding ticket. They don’t like that much either,” Ramsburg said. “There’s a parent walking around with those cards. As soon as they figure out what she is giving out, they’ll try to evade her.”

Friday’s event was organized by Hamilton teacher Amy Ramsburg who helped students navigate the various tables. Each of the different areas was manned by teachers, parents or other volunteers.