Adulting is hard.
That's why University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agents in Cobb, Gwinnett, Newton, and Rockdale counties have devised a virtual youth development series called Adulting 101 for 4-H youth in their areas.
The idea was born in April 2020 when Cobb County 4-H agent Brittani Lee held a virtual brainstorming session with 4-H student officers in the county to gather ideas for programming over the coming year.
"One of my officers was a junior in high school and she asked if we could do some life skills classes on how to be an adult," said Lee, who shared the idea with 4-H agents Brittany Teets in Rockdale County, Pam Bloch in Gwinnett County, and 4-H educator Charlene Scott in Newton County.
"One of our goals is getting kids ready for life postgraduation and college. I had been doing some life skills classes before, but when we came up with the virtual 'Adulting 101,' we were able to expand it," Teets said. "Making the class virtual, especially due to the COVID pandemic, made it easier to open it up to different audiences."
The four colleagues worked together on a series of topics they felt would be helpful to young people as they gained independence. Classes were held monthly via Zoom, with 4-H'ers logging in from all four counties for courses on time management, budgeting, college readiness, career spotlights, resume building and interviewing tips.
The first class was a dorm cooking module based on the 4-H Project Achievement food labs guidelines.
“Our cooking labs are something any college student can benefit from, including how to make food in the dorm and how to make sure you keep food safe in your mini fridge to affordable and easy meals you can make if you have access to a kitchen in your dorm,” Teets said about the "Kitchen Life Hacks" course that kicked off the series in September 2020.
During the college-readiness session, a college admissions counselor from California joined the course to offer tips and answer questions about the admission process. Then the students learned about financial readiness, including how to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which every college and technical school student must complete to qualify for financial aid.
"After we did the session on job interview skills, professional dress and how to create resumes and cover letters, we had a Cobb County 4-H'er come back to tell us it helped him to get a part-time job," Lee said. “He is 16 and he said the class made him want to apply for jobs. He went on the interview and used the skills he learned to get his first job.”
For the careers session, the team recruited community professionals — including a nurse, a firefighter, a teacher and a computer programmer — to discuss their professions and share information on how they prepared for their careers.
Each team member took charge of a different session, developing the lessons and curriculum from Georgia 4-H materials and 4-H programs from other states.
For the budgeting session, the team polled the students to determine their spending styles and then divided them into corresponding groups. Then students were given monthly budgets based on grade point averages, a "family" to take care of, and the responsibility for caring for an animal, all assigned at random by spinning a wheel in an online budgeting simulator. The students were also charged a 10% tax on their income.
“They learned that a higher GPA equaled better college prospects and job opportunities. They also learned that taking care of a horse costs a lot more than taking care of two goldfish and that could really effect their monthly budget,” Scott said. “They had to go to a virtual shopping mall and visit each store, buying something they needed. There was also a ‘chance’ wheel they had to spin that could affect their bottom line based on whether they needed to save for a vacation or pay for an emergency.”
Students kept track of their income and spending through a virtual check register, and many were surprised at how quickly their spending added up.
“We evaluated them at the end, and it was interesting to see what they took away from it,” said Lee, adding that some students felt overwhelmed trying to balance expenses while others ended up with savings at the end of the exercise.
“They realized that money is not something you take lightly and that something you want might not always be something you can get,” Scott said. “We talked about needs versus wants and the choices we need to make to survive. I think all of them realized that things are more expensive than they thought.”
The team presented a cooking session on how to recreate favorite fast-food items at home.
“They might really like to get that crunch wrap supreme from Taco Bell or that coffee from Starbucks, but this showed them that there are options to make it themselves and it tastes identical, but it is healthier and cheaper," Bloch said.
While the cooking and budgeting sessions drew the most participants, the team was pleased with the turnout for all of the sessions and is currently planning sessions for the 2021-22 academic year.
“Students have already expressed interest in learning about careers in the private sector, like the law field or in film or music. Several students wanted to talk more about college and how to find the college that best suits them and their career goals,” Lee said.
The classes are open to 4-H students around the state as long as 4-H has participation permission forms from each student. These forms are available from 4-H staff in each county. In addition, the "Adulting 101" team is exploring options to expand the program with agents from other counties.
It is our goal to expand and share this program because it has been so beneficial,” Teets said. "We want to work smarter, not harder. So we are writing the curriculum into a format that gives other agents a template they can use to recreate what we've done in their specific counties."
For information on 4-H programming in your county, visit georgia4H.org or contact your local UGA Extension office.