Real-life lessons humble students

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
By: Rana Cash
October 12, 2010

It took maybe 10 minutes for the students to come down to Earth.

Life is hard, and managing money isn't always a breeze. Freshmen at the Coretta Scott King Young Women's Leadership Academy in Atlanta got a real-life financial literacy lesson when financial planners visited their classes during an event sponsored by Junior Achievement.

What began as fun and games --- they played a board game called Balance, Break Even or Broke --- became more serious as time went on. Each of the young women was given a card that described her station in life, including occupation, marital status, salary and level of education. Using a budget, they had to make money-oriented decisions that grown-ups face every day.

"I know I gotta go to college and graduate school," Davieshia Keno said matter-of-factly. "I need some money. Playing this game, I'm getting stressed out."

According to the JumpStart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, the average high school senior scored below 50 percent on its annual test. That indicates something financial experts already know: Kids are not always learning the basics of personal finance at home or in schools. Financial Planning Week aimed to heighten the attention given to the topic among young people and adults.

It was front and center at the school that has a curriculum rooted in two career tracks --- business and entrepreneurship, and science and engineering.

In one class, they had to be problem-solvers and find ways to pay for college, buy a car or take care of other necessities. They weighed the pros and cons of using credit cards in each situation.

"This is empowering young girls to take control of their finances," planner Niv Persaud said. "This will help them to decide where they want to be in the future and become familiar with the terms."

Brianna Curtis isn't likely to forget. The student class president, Curtis is very bright. But even she was humbled by the responsibilities that come with paying bills.

"Can we use this for our real life?" she asked the instructor, planner Roberta Goldbaugh. "I'm going to have my stuff together when I grow up."

Down the hall, more students learned about life, medical, auto and other forms of insurance. Still more took in lessons on stocks, savings bonds, certificates of deposits, real estate and other topics.

"Some of them may not get it now because it is a lot to take in, but one day they'll remember what they learned here," Persaud said.

Join the discussion at blogs.ajc.com/atlanta-bargainhunter. Rana Cash's column also appears in Thursday Living.

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