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Adulting with Life$kills

Updated: Mar 21

Nex-Generation Round Up for Youth's newest program, Life$kills, is geared towards high school juniors and seniors and engages students in a hands-on learning environment to help them prepare to be financially fit for their future. Using our Young AmeriTowne site in Lenora, KS, we created this program to help students learn the concept of budgeting so they're aware of what is to come when they leave high school.



Nex-Gen's Vision

Nex-Generation Round Up for Youth, Inc.'s vision is to be the premier youth engagement organization, working with all youth and partners to advance and sustain rural economies, taking students from the classroom to a career.


Adulting

We've all heard about "adulting." We do it every day. Well, almost every day. Adulting is an informal noun describing "the act or practice of attending to the ordinary tasks required of a responsible adult," as described by the Merriam-Webster dictionary. We use this term with the students to help them understand that budgeting, prioritizing expenses, being active in their communities, and knowing how to properly prepare a resume are considered adulting. Even though some of these tasks seem mundane, they're necessary to be a responsible adult. By creating a hands-on and exciting program such as Life$kills, we can show students how to do these tasks before leaving high school and help them be better prepared for their future.


Adult assisting students with their Life Skills budget sheets.

About Life$kills

In 2021, Nex-Gen started brainstorming what Life$kills would look like. What information should we include? What would best benefit the students in getting the concept of budgets across? How can we try to keep them as engaged and interested as possible? How can we try to tie it to our local/rural economies? What other skills are we wanting to share with students?


With those questions in mind, we compiled a list of 45 different jobs (Journalist, Teacher, Law Enforcement Officer, Farmer/Rancher, Social Worker, and so on) as our starting point. We then started gathering information on average salaries in Kansas for those jobs, as well as the average cost for several different categories of a budget such as rent/mortgage, utilities, student loans, and more.


Having various job options for the students was high on our priority list because we wanted to make sure the students would be willing to participate in a role in which they were most interested. Instead of having students choose a job based solely on title or salary, we decided we would ask them some questions before assigning their roles. Before attending Life$kills, we provide students with a brief survey that invites them to explore what their ideal salary would look like, what career they'd like to have in the future, what their work ethic is like, and so on. Based on the survey results and the students' interests, we assign each student a role (an Engineer, for example) that includes a monthly salary. The salary is based on an average salary for that position in Kansas. Some students have dependents and a secondary salary. For the sake of the simulation, we decided assigning dependents would help teach them how to prioritize and alter their budget as needed. The secondary salary could be whatever the student wanted it to be - income from a spouse, a roommate, a secondary job, etc. Leaving it up to them allows the students to play into the simulation and use that information to determine other items for which they need to budget. Other items the students are assigned are an address and a degree based on their role.


A student spins the Life Happens wheel

Using their role sheet and assigned salary, students go from room to room to fill out their one-month budget sheet. Students must make decisions about what kind of home they'd like to buy or rent, groceries for themselves and their family (if applicable), and what kind of vehicle to buy. Additionally, students roll the dice to determine what this month's utility bill is going to be, spin the wheel to know that "Life Happen$," and so much MORE.


Other items we chose to include in our program were check writing, resume writing and interviewing skills, filling out a basic utility application, and addressing and mailing an envelope. While the world around us is moving at lightning speed towards a paperless and more digital space, there are still instances when a physical check or an addressed envelope is necessary. By sharing these skills with students now, they can be better prepared for when they encounter such an instance in the future.


With each bit of information that we collected to build this program, our eyes were opened, and we knew that using these items in our program would help open students' eyes, as well. After two years of working and re-working the materials, we were ready to pilot Life$kills.


Sharing Life$kills with Students

In March 2023, Norton High School's JAG-K class participated in the Life$kills pilot. There were 52 students ranging from freshmen to seniors in attendance. After Norton's class went though the simulation and participated in our included workshops, we received feedback from the students about what they believed could be improved for our next school. A few students suggested adjusting the layout of the budget sheet to be more easily followed and read. Other students suggested that we change up our material by adding pet expenses to the budget. Each bit of feedback we received was considered and incredibly valued. As a result, we updated a few line items on the budget sheet and altered a bit of our workshop information.

An adult explains how to fill out the utilities portion of the budget sheet

In March 2024, Wheatland High School brought 18 juniors to Life$kills. This group found the budget sheets easy to use and the workshop material helpful. We also received more feedback about including pets. Some of the responses we received from students were that "it [Life$kills] was definitely a beneficial program," and "I really think this was an amazing experience for the younger generation to learn real-life experiences." One student shared that an "ah-ha" moment they had during Life$kills was the process you go through with health and life insurance.


Of those students who attended in March 2024, 100% of them said they learned about money management, 42% said they learned how to write a check, 33% learned time management, and 83% said they learned about community involvement and readiness.


Teachers and Volunteers

Feedback from teachers and volunteers has also been incredibly positive, with students' understanding of personal finance and money management as a key takeaway. One of the teachers said, "Many students were very excited to see their annual and monthly salaries at the beginning of the activity. However, they soon realized that while it was a decent paycheck, it disappeared very quickly after they paid for their necessary expenses. I think it [Life$kills] was very eye-opening for them."


Students stand at a desk as they decide what they need for their budget sheet

Aligning with our Mission

Helping students to become financially fit and preparing them for their future as adults is at the heart of what we do with Life$kills. We will continue to build and evolve this program, always aligning it to our core values and mission.


Our mission is to educate northwest and north central Kansas students about local career opportunities by providing and supporting programs in career development, entrepreneurship, and internship. Through these efforts, we hope to foster a positive sense of community and encourage youth to remain or return home to prosper.

Thank You

We appreciate the teachers and administrators who are utilizing our programs, including Life$kills, and aligning them to their curriculum. We value the hard work they invest in their students to help them be successful.


We are thankful to have community volunteers who make our programs run efficiently. Their willingness to coach students through financial decisions and share real-world experiences adds so much value to the program content.


We are also incredibly grateful to our donors, sponsors, and Nex-Tech's Round Up customers for investing in our programs for students. Because of you all, we can continue sharing our vision with students in northwest and north central Kansas.


Enroll Today!

Enrollments for Life$kills for the Fall 2024 Semester are now open! Visit our "Programs" tab on our website or contact our Youth Programs/AmeriTowne Coodinator, Sabre Riggins, at sriggins@nex-generation.org for more information.


Nex-Generation Round Up for Youth, Inc.'s Life$kills logo




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