K-State Research and Extension family finance specialist Dr. Elizabeth Kiss helps two Kansas 4-H members during 2017's Discovery Days. | Download this photo.
Facing life in the “Real World”
4-H members get eye-opening glimpse of the future
June 7, 2017
MANHATTAN, Kan. — Paying bills, managing a budget, owning or renting a home — these are everyday concerns of most adults, and some Kansas 4-H teenagers got their first introduction to them during last week’s 4-H Discovery Days at Kansas State University.
“Welcome to the Real World” was an afternoon workshop designed to introduce students to what lies ahead, when they start life on their own.
Kansas 4-H is the youth development program for K-State Research and Extension. Through 4-H’s educational mission, young people learn by doing so they can be equipped to reach their full potential and become engaged adults who make valuable social and economic contributions in their communities. Every June, Kansas 4-H members convene at K-State for Discovery Days, a week of classes and tours about 4-H projects, careers, hobbies, community service and more.
Through Kansas 4-H and a statewide network of extension agents – many of whom help with Discovery Days – Kansas State University fulfills its mission to promote and deliver educational material to improve and enrich the lives of citizens and their families. Much of the information shared by an extension agent began as university research, usually in the areas of agriculture, family and consumer sciences, and economics.
“As county extension agents with an interest in family financial management, we wanted to teach these kids a little more about what happens when you grow up,” said Jamie Rathbun, the family and consumer science agent for the Midway District (serving Ellsworth and Russell counties). “What it’s like to have to pay bills, make personal budget decisions like, ‘Am I going to be able to afford movie tickets this weekend?’
Extension agents are local employees of Kansas State University that promote and deliver educational material to improve and enrich the lives of citizens and their families. Much of the information shared by an extension agent began as university research, usually in the areas of agriculture, family and consumer sciences, and economics.
To juice up the realism, K-State Research and Extension family financial specialist Dr. Elizabeth Kiss circled the room with a thick stack of cards — the “curveball” cards. Each participant was required to draw one card from the deck, and confront whatever was dealt to them.
“I have the curveballs, the things that happen in real life that you can’t plan for,” said Kiss. “One card has you taking the dog to the vet, a $100 expense. There’s a speeding ticket for $75. Those are considered bad things, but there are good cards in the stack, as well. You might sell pies at a bake sale and make $75; Grandma might send you a birthday card with $25. Curve balls can go either way, just like life.”
“And we’re not the only ones with the curveballs,” added Rathbun. “Some of us have had questions from the kids about sharing an apartment, sharing a vehicle, even sharing clothing. And we left out a lot of real life possibilities for someone in their early 20s, including marriage and having children.”
At the end of the session, agents and 4-H members discussed the experiment. “I think it was good for the kids to see the many decisions that come with being an adult,” Rathbun said. “Not just the daily impact of those decisions, but also thinking through how those decisions have an impact on a person's financial situation — possibly for years down the road.”
Participants were quick to make connections to the challenges their own parents dealt with, frequently without telling their children.
“How did they do it?” said 4-H member John Achen. “I’ve got 10 brothers and sisters, and I’m on the bottom end, but like, how did they manage to take care of all of us and still … you know, survive?”