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home : news : news Thursday, April 28, 2016

5/7/2014 Email this articlePrint this article 
So tell me a little bit about yourself. Central Community Middle School eighth-grader Donovan Good sits down for a mock interview with Kristi Becker, business education coordinator for DeWitt Chamber and Development Co. Good is a member of the school’s new career readiness course, which was offered as an elective this year but will be a required class for all eighth-graders next year. Zeb Hubner teaches the course and Jen Froeschle of DeWitt will teach an additional section of the class during the 2014-15 school year. Photo by Kate Howes
Course acquaints students with grown-up responsibilities

By Kate Howes
Staff writer

Most people don't know much about things like leases, fixed expenses or the difference between a credit and a debit card until they've graduated from school and are on out their own.

Thanks to a new elective course this year, eighth-graders at Central Community Middle School are getting a good head start learning those kinds of lessons.

They may be just 14 years old, but career readiness course instructor Zeb Hubner, who also teaches social studies, says providing students with some insight as to what they'll need to become successful adults is what the class is all about.

That is a concept that never can be instilled in young people too early.

"If nothing else, this class is a first step to learning important life skills," Hubner relates. "They're just learning these skills at a younger age."

Participants in the career readiness course are learning everything from how to produce an impressive resume to how to create and sustain a sensible budget.

While the course is an elective this year, it will become a requirement for eighth-graders for the 2014-15 school year.

At the beginning of the class, students were asked to share what they consider to be their "dream jobs."

Hubner says while some of the students' professions of choice were pretty plausible - chiropractor, teacher and veterinarian - others aspire to become famous athletes or entertainers.

The next step is putting together a resume. Students learn what kinds of things they need to include, from their contact information to what special skills they possess that will make them valuable employees.

"I tell them they need to include activities they're involved with and things they're good at," Hubner explains. "Then we talk about how to take that information and turn them into strong action statements and build off of that."

Given their young age, most of the students don't have much, if any, work experience. However, some of them have taken advantage of volunteer opportunities. Hubner emphasizes employers love to see volunteerism on a resume.

"I stress to them they need to get involved in things, whether it's athletics or band; whatever they're interested in," he says. "They need to do whatever they can to make themselves more marketable. It's also about networking. If people see you participating in activities or even if they just get to know you, that can go a long way."

Students then have to write up a resume for a famous person, a process that helps them learn how to track down information.

All the skills necessary to have a successful interview are covered as well, such as having a firm handshake, lots of eye contact and good posture.

A mock interview, during which they're asked just a couple of simple questions, enable students to practice these skills and learn to think on their feet.

Everything they learn in the class culminates into another mock interview; however, this time students sit face-to-face with adults to put their skills to the test.

"The kids pick from a list of jobs teenagers would have," Hubner explains. "Then they have to research that job and apply for it."

The interviews are videotaped so students can critique themselves and determine what skills they need to work on.

Other subjects covered include looking at colleges, scholarships, financial vocabulary, credit cards, checking and savings accounts and the definition of fixed expenses.

The class even researched what it costs to rent a home in DeWitt as compared to the Quad Cities or a metropolis like Chicago.

"I know a lot of them think once they turn 18, they'll want to get the heck out of here," Hubner shares. "But they need to think about the cost."

Then students were asked to decide what five items they think would need to have if they were moving into an empty apartment.

While some of the answers included Netflix and big-screen televisions, once students saw how much their credit card bills would be to buy those items, many of them had to rethink their priorities.

"That was a real eye-opener for them," Hubner relates. "They see how much things really cost and that in addition to what you charge on your credit card, you also have to pay interest. That taught them just how careful they need to be when they get a credit card."

Incorporating all their fixed expenses into their budget and figuring out approximately how much they will have to spend each month is another lesson that left students a bit stunned.

"I hope it got them thinking about their household budgets," Hubner notes. "Hopefully now when their parents tell them something's 'not in the budget,' they'll understand and it will mean a little more to them."

How much it can cost to live on their own is what impacted students the most.

Many say they have developed a new appreciation for everything their parents have provided for them. They have learned the importance of making good decisions when it comes to money so they can be financially independent.

"I now know how hard life is going to be without my momma and papa paying for everything," says Taylor Zeimet.

"I definitely know to be more prepared," notes Nicole Marvin, "if you don't want to end up living in your parents' basement."

At the end of the semester, students will look at career clusters. For example, if a student has considered being a doctor but doesn't think he or she could handle the rigors of medical school, they can explore other jobs in the medical field that might be a better fit for them, such as being a nurse or physical therapist.

Then they explore the path they'll need to follow to be eligible for the job, including what kind of education they'll need - a two-year, four-year degree or master's degree or a doctorate.

"We talk a lot about how they want to live once they become adults," Hubner says. "They need to understand unless they win the lottery, they will be limited to what they can do and have."

"I now realize how big of a deal it is for me to get my act together," relates career readiness student Kyrsten Ford. "I've learned just how much your responsibilities increase when you move out on your own. I enjoy the fact the class is making me realize why it's such a good thing to manage your money."

The last thing the class will do is take another career survey. Hubner says he is curious to see how much their choices have changed given everything they've learned over the course of the semester.

"I guess we'll find out in about two years when they go out to get their first jobs if this class helped students or not," Hubner quips. "I really hope this class will continue to evolve and grow year to year."

For eighth-grader Michelle Berry, the course definitely has made a lasting and positive impression.

"This motivates me to be involved in more things because not only will it look good on a resume, but I'll also have more to be proud of," she notes.

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