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Bridge Street Students Learn To ‘Get A Life’

photo by: Photo by Joselyn King

Bridge Street Middle School eighth grade student London Miller, left, gets assistance from her father, Chris Miller, as she makes decisions during the "Get A Life" program at the school on Tuesday.

WHEELING — Bridge Street Middle School eighth grader Alyshalynn Taggart learned an important lesson while participating in a life skills program at the school Tuesday.

She found out if you go to the doctor first — even a pretend one — before getting health insurance, you just might go bankrupt.

Taggart’s participation in the “Get a Life” event at Bridge Street got cut short as she and other students played a game intended to teach them what it means to live on a budget, and the decisions families have to make.

To start, each eighth grade student was handed a card telling them what life they had. It indicated whether they were married, how many children they had, what their occupation was and their corresponding monthly salary.

The card also listed what expenses and needs they had they had that month.

In the first round, the students had jobs they could get only with a high school education. In the second round, they had careers in which college or post-secondary training was needed.

Around the gymnasium were stations where students went to “buy” housing, insurance, and cars, set up insurance with the “Happy Accident Insurance Company,” and establish utilities with “Hyperactive Energy Co.” There was also a mock “Falcon Shopping Center” to buy the extras the students and their pretend families might need.

Parents also were invited to come participate in the event and assist their children in their decision-making process.

Teacher Stephanie O’Donnell said the school organizes the program each year for seventh grade students, but last year’s seventh grade students didn’t get their day. Separate events were set this year for both seventh and eighth grade students.

“We hope they come away understanding and having an appreciation for the work their parents do to provide for them,” O’Donnell said. “Our main focus is that, when they are older, they understand what it means to live within their means.”

Taggart, after going bankrupt quickly in the first round, was awaiting the second round.

“Next time, I will get health insurance before I go to the doctor,” she said.

Principal Jessica Broski-Birch got into the act, first playing the role of a fast-talking realtor and later a car salesperson.

“I’m trying to be persuasive, and show them how easy it is to make rash decisions,” she explained.

At least one student took a prudent approach to finding a home, asking to find an abode downtown close to work so he wouldn’t have to drive and use as much gas each day, she said.

“I think they come away with an appreciation for adults, and the decisions their parents make that they don’t have to make,” Broski-Birch said.

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