Students in Katie Chastain’s financial literacy class at Brunswick High School are participating in a Budget Challenge program to learn real-life skills.

Few adults can recall the last time they used the Pythagorean theorem. But most can only too easily remember the last time they paid taxes.

Students in Katie Chastain’s financial literacy class at Brunswick High School are learning important real life skills, through a fun and engaging program called the “Budget Challenge.”

Budget Challenge is a personal finance simulation played in real time over a 10-week period.

Through the program, students receive paychecks and bills in real time and are challenged to build a budget that allows them to pay their bills on time, manage a credit card balance and save money for retirement in a 401k.

“It is teaching us about how real life works,” said Taleah Bacon, a junior in Chastain’s class. “How we pay bills, how credit cards work.”

The simulation does not use real money. Its realistic features, though, include online bill pay, direct deposit, email bill alerts, 401k paycheck deductions and more.

Students are also sometimes affected by sudden events like a car accident or medical emergency. Those scenarios teach the students about the financial implications and how to both plan for and respond to life’s curveballs.

“It will give you situations like ‘Your car broke down,’ or ‘You didn’t get your paycheck this week,’” said Aarya Trivedi, a senior.

Budget Challenge also includes some of the complicated banking and credit card fees that often plague young people in the real world, allowing the students to make mistakes in the safety of the classroom.

Budget Challenge is also a competition that scores and ranks students based on how well they save, answer weekly quizzes and manage their financial responsibilities

“They see their ranking compared to other schools, so it’s a competition,” Chastain said.

The students said they’ve learned valuable information from the program, which breaks down complicated financial concepts into language they understand.

“It kind of brings it down to a level where high schoolers can understand it,” said Shakeem Sciven, a junior in the class.

Around 847,000 students participated in the program in 2017, Chastain said. The program at BHS is part of the financial services pathway.

“We’re hearing from the business world that they want the students to work on soft skills and personal finance skills, because they have to pay bills on time and they have to have a good grasp of time management and they have to learn to be detail oriented,” Chastain said. “All the things that they might use at home transfers over to the workforce.”

Spotlight on Schools appears Thursdays. Contact Lauren McDonald at lmcdonald@thebrunswicknews.com or at 912-265-8320, ext. 322 to suggest a topic for a column.

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