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Get a life!

Simulation teaches students about costs of living

May 14, 2011
By WARREN SCOTT - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

WELLSBURG - Eighth-graders at Wellsburg Middle School learned it can be difficult to balance the costs of feeding a family, furnishing a home, fueling a vehicle and other expenses but it's much easier if one has a job that required a college education.

The point was made through the Get a Life! game presented at the school May 4 by Pat Ramsburg, regional coordinator for West Virginia State Treasurer John Perdue, through his NetWorth program.

Designed by a graduate student at Fairmont University, the game begins with Ramsburg distributing to each pupil a red card bearing a specific job title.

Article Photos

Warren Scott
LESSONS?IN?LIFE — James Rice, an eighth-grader at Wellsburg Middle School, receives instructions from Pat Ramsburg, center, regional coordinator for the West Virginia state treasurer’s office; and volunteer Linda Caldrone, banking center manager of the Wellsburg WesBanco Branch; while learning to stretch his pay to meet expenses ranging from groceries to doctor’s bills during a simulation at the school.

The jobs are common positions that don't require a college education and the yearly and monthly net incomes printed on the cards reflect that.

The cards also include imaginary details about the pupil's marital status and number of children. As in life, such factors varied with each person.

Ramsburg then instructed the pupils to visit each of several tables in the school's cafeteria, where they committed to monthly payments for a vehicle, home and furnishings, and were billed for utilities, medical treatment, groceries and gasoline.

As they did, they deducted that expense from their monthly net income.

The pupils also were asked to consider insurance options. All were required to subscribe to liability auto insurance because it's required of all licensed drivers under West Virginia law.

But full automobile coverage, as well as health coverage, were optional.

When the pupils visited a table bearing the name of Dr. D. Pocketts and manned by Linda Caldrone of the Wellsburg WesBanco branch, they learned their bill for various medical expenses was one amount if they were insured and a larger one if they weren't.

Caldrone, who was one of several volunteers recruited by the Wellsburg Chamber of Commerce, said when the pupils learned of the difference, some went back to the insurance table to sign up for health insurance.

Local handyman Tom Brown sat at the realtor's table, where pupils had the option of chosing homes ranging in price from $98 per month to $9,500 per month.

"I've told some of them for the lowest price, the previous owner had 100 cats and they all peed on the floor," Brown said.

Hancock County West Virginia University Extension Service agent Carole Scheerbaum, who manned the gasoline station table, said the pupils could choose the make and model of their automobile and at least one chose one for its excellent mileage rate.

The pupils also were approached by Charles Bell, president of Main Street Bank, who was given the thankless task of randomly distributing cards bearing unexpected expenses ranging from house repairs to veterinary bills and the very occasional windfall, such as a lottery winning.

After the teens visited each table, each was given a green card with a new job title and salary reflective of a college education.

Eighth-graders Richard Palmer and Christopher Miller, both of Wellsburg, said they were surprised by the cost of many of the expenses.

"I learned stuff in real life is very expensive," Palmer said.

"I learned $2,000 a month won't get you far," agreed Miller.

Asked if he plans to attend college, Miller said, "I'm definitely going."

"I probably will - at least a two-year college," Palmer said.

"I'm living with my parents for the rest of my life," joked Kari Huff, an eighth-grader from Wellsburg.

"I feel bad for my dad now," said classmate Kylie Royal, also of Wellsburg.

Sandi Scheetz, an eighth-grader from Follansbee, said the costs weren't a total surprise to her.

"My mom's been teaching me (about it) since I'm going to high school next year," she said.

But Scheetz said she liked the simulation anyway.

"I think it's pretty cool because you learn a lot about what you'll experience after school," she said.

(Scott can be contacted at

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