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November 18. 2013 8:21PM

Students at Londonderry Middle School learn it’s never too early for financial reality check

LONDONDERRY — Students at Londonderry Middle School are learning some important life lessons they may want to share with their parents.

On Friday afternoon, the school’s seventh- and eighth-graders got a visit from Service Credit Union staffers Jen Hanson and Nancy Layton, both educators for the CU 4 Reality program.

Based out of America’s Credit Union Museum in Manchester, the traveling program incorporates classroom lessons with hands-on experiences culminating in the CU 4 Reality Fair held at the museum each spring.

Layton said the program began about seven years ago when museum officials began working on public outreach initiatives to encourage financial literacy and realized the middle school population was lacking in such lessons.

That year, a pilot program was launched in the Concord school district, with teachers working alongside credit union volunteers.

After the first year, the program was extended to other districts throughout the state. On Friday, Hanson and Layton visited with some 420 Londonderry Middle School students.

“This program really gives them a taste of what its really like to be an adult,” Layton said.

In the coming weeks, each student will complete a career assessment, where many will consider their futures for the first time.

By springtime, each of the students will have chosen a respective “career” and, with a little help from their teachers, researched the entry level salaries for those careers, including what level of schooling they’ll need to get started.

When the Londonderry students visit the museum this April, Layton and Hanson will have prepared a personalized budget sheet for each of the students.

Volunteers will set up various booths around the museum, giving the students the chance to shop around for housing and transportation options they feel are most appropriate for their budget range.

“We talk a lot about needs versus wants,” Hanson said. “Hopefully by the end of this exercise, they’ll have budgeted appropriately and will have managed to have some funds left over.”

Math teacher Trudy Morris said the timing for last week’s lessons were ideal, as her students had recently been learning about loans and interest rates.

As Hanson explained the difference between fixed, variable and discretionary expenses, Morris chimed in with a couple of reminders for her students.

“We have terms here that can relate to our algebra lessons, don’t we?” she asked the eighth-graders. “Remember, things that are variable can change, right?”

During the one-hour initial session, the students tackled the dilemmas of renting versus owning, public transportation versus purchasing a car, and the perks of having roommates versus living alone.

The students quickly caught on, with several immediately realizing that having two roommates in a $1,200, three-bedroom apartment is a cheaper option that living along in a $500 studio.

“Remember, we’re planning for your first year out of college,” Morris reminded her students. “We’re talking entry level jobs for most of you so basically you’re going to be pretty poor.”

For more information on the CU 4 Reality program, visit www.cu4reality.org.aguilmet@newstote.com


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