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High school students learn to live on budget

December 1, 2010
By GARRETT NEESE Houghton Daily Mining Gazette

HOUGHTON - About 90 high school students got an advance look at the word of working, bill-paying and child-rearing at a workshop put on last week.

The eye-opening experiences came courtesy of the Reality Store, part of a series of workshops put on by the Copper Country Intermediate School District and Michigan Works!

This is the third year it's been done as part of the workshop. In previous years, it would be held at individual high schools.

Article Photos

Chase Peters, a junior at Calumet High School, goes over a hypothetical monthly budget as part of the Reality Store activity in the interviewing workshop put on last week by Michigan Works! and the Copper Country Intermediate School District. (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette photo by Garrett Neese)

They were randomly assigned a profession, as well as marital status and number of children, then had to plot out a monthly budget.

"They can't just pick a perfect family," said Cheri Poynter, president of the Keweenaw Business and Professional Women.

Even if the students luck out and get a seemingly high-paying job, they might be surprised at how much expenses eat up. The monthly budget takes into account things such as food, clothing, utilities and transportation.

The resulting debt can come as a shock, Poynter said.

"They know their parents pay bills, but they have any idea what the utilities cost, and that their parents have to buy insurance for their vehicles," she said.

Jeffers students Tiffany Liimatta, Dusty Raffaelli and Chelsie Stevens wound up as an accountant, auto body repairman and dental hygienist, respectively.

Liimatta and Raffaelli, at $2,917 and $2,889 per month, were unhappy with their debt.

"I'm satisfied," said Stevens, the biggest earner of the three with $4,614 per month.

"Of course you are," Liimatta shot back. "You're making bank."

Liimatta, who had thought about becoming an accountant, now says she might choose nursing instead.

It was a valuable experience, Stevens said.

"It really makes you think about it, and realize you've got to have a decent job to do all the things you want to do," she said.

The workshop also included lessons on disability disclosure, etiquette and interviewing skills, while Keith Johnson, director of Western U.P. Michigan Works!, was on hand to provide books and resume information to students.

Michigan Technological University career services director Jim Turnquist advised students on how to make a successful impression with employers.

If asked about their weaknesses, Turnquist said, they should follow up their answer by explaining what they're doing to correct the problem. And they shouldn't underestimate their work experience, he said.

"They say, 'I only worked at Hardee's,'" he said. "I say, 'No, you worked at Hardee's.' Anytime you have a job, you are showing you're responsible."



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