Co-Lin students get a taste of the real world

Co-Lin students get a taste of the real world Picture

October 28, 2019

Navigating the real world and the expenses that accompany it, can frustrate even the most watchful budgeting bean-counter. Insurance deductibles, property taxes, and even unexpected trips to the emergency room can all be budget busters for families.   

Co-Lin created REALality, a one-day, real world look at the expenses that await Career and Technical and Adult Education students after graduation from the respective programs. The event, hosted in the Thames Conference Center on the college’s Wesson Campus, served as a hands-on educational opportunity featuring realtors, accountants, bankers, insurance professionals, power company reps, cable services, cellular phone services and grocery managers, who each volunteered their time to give approximately 300 students the tools they need to make a smooth transition to the real world.

Organized by the Career and Technical Division of Co-Lin, students from each career-tech program at the Wesson Campus left with handouts on various types of financial information, pages of notes and job interview tips.

“We have been saying for years that a program like Junior Auxiliary’s ‘Reality Town’ should extend to the community college level,” said Realtor and past president of JA of Brookhaven, Stephany Smith. “We love working with ninth graders because we help them understand that they will soon have bills of their own to pay, but for many of the students in this room today, they’ve probably already been paying bills.”

Keshaun Herring, 19, is one of those students. A father and soon-to-be graduate of the Electrical program, he’s been working two jobs this year.  Often staying at Wendy’s in Brookhaven until 3 a.m. cleaning up after his night shift, a new opportunity to work at a sawmill is going to allow him to be home more and receive better health benefits for his family.

“I’ve been working so much while I’m in school (at Co-Lin) and I’m paying my house note, $600 car insurance bill, and taking care of my family. I didn’t realize the difference in health benefits at jobs and now I know to ask about that. I didn’t know, until today when the Wal-Mart people said it, that the Great Value brand is the exact same quality as the brand names. You’re paying more just for the brand name and that doesn’t make sense to me.”

Automation and Controls student, Ridge Sullivan, was furiously taking notes while visiting the banking and finance table hosted by Trustmark Bank President Stan Foster.

“The accountants table took a broad look at taxes and how important it is to track your yearly expenses, but I didn’t realize there was so much to the mortgage process,” said the 19-year-old. “Front and back ratio, PMI (private mortgage insurance), all of that really adds up fast.”

Mandy Case, Automation and Control Engineering Technology instructor, tried to prepare her students for what they would hear, but she knows that the students experiencing it first-hand was invaluable.

“Analyzing benefits packages versus the salary is something they may have never done before,” said Case.  “I know for me personally, it makes all the difference in my career choices. Childcare, dental insurance, growing grocery bills are all a shock to them. This event gets them thinking about how difficult it could be to live in the real world.”

“All of our CTE programs came through the Thames Center today to what equates to an extension of their classroom,” said Dean of Career, Technical and Workforce Education Brent Duguid.  “This gives the students the opportunity to learn about expectations of them. We hope they don’t just look at their good salary and decide to buy an expensive vehicle or an expensive house. It’s our job to prepare them as much as possible and this event does that.” 

“It was a whirlwind day, but I am happy I came today because this event gives these students the tools that they can call on later,” said Stan Foster, President of Trustmark Bank in Brookhaven. “We want to help them mentally prepare for the reality that awaits them.”