Indiana State University Newsroom

Indiana State community helps Vigo 8th graders make cents of finances

October 14, 2013

Otter Creek Middle School teacher Kristen Eberly coached her students for a financial literacy event by embracing her unique perspective.

Not only had Eberly volunteered to help the kids budget during the previous year's event when she was still a student at Indiana State University, but the Terre Haute native had gone through the same event years earlier - when she was in eighth grade.

Eberly was one of the many Vigo County School Corp. teachers who took their eighth graders to the annual Let'$ Get Real financial literacy event at Woodrow Wilson Middle School. Indiana State students, staff and faculty members volunteered in the workshop that provides students a glimpse of a hypothetical adulthood and lets them plan for budgeting of their monthly bills based on income.

"I know that learning at a young age is going to be helpful for them," said Eberly, who holds a bachelor's degree in elementary and special education from Indiana State. "Even as eighth graders, they're already learning money. As high school students, they're going to start paying some of their bills, so this is a really good exercise, especially with eighth graders, to start really learning how important it is to be on top of their money."

Students started the event with a budget worksheet that includes a career, the level of education required for the position and the position's monthly salary. They also have a family status, including if each person is single or married, and the number of children that they have. The family size has an impact on a variety of costs, including housing, health insurance and household needs.

"I think it really stressed the importance of education," said Casey Jonas, an event volunteer and Indiana State student from Merrillville who is pursuing her master's in clinical mental health counseling. "It says if they went to high school or college, and you can definitely see the salary differences."

The Woodrow Wilson gymnasium had tables stationed for the 18 categories that students fill out on the worksheet. They started with the biggest necessary costs - taxes, of course, and housing - while taking out five percent of their salaries for savings.

Kaitlyn Hankins, an eighth grader at Otter Creek Middle School, was surprised "about how much taxes cost, really, because I've never noticed that," she said. She also learned about the costs of child care and other monthly necessities.

"I think it's a good idea, because you have a lot of fun doing it," Kaitlyn said of participating in Let'$ Get Real, "and you learn in the process."

Indiana State volunteers worked at a variety of tables for the event. At Jonas's table, students spun a wheel to determine their fortune - ranging from paying for a doctor's visit to unexpectedly receiving money. Several times, students who had to pay an unanticipated bill lacked the necessary funds, which required them to head to the financial counseling table to rework their budgets.

"They're simple things that could happen every day, like your car breaks down, stuff like that," Jonas said. "Some of the students didn't know how to balance a checkbook. So I think this was a really good opportunity for them. We never had this at my school."

Indiana State junior Haley Shawhan helped students budget for entertainment. They had options ranging from budgeting for video rentals to allotting funds for concert tickets.

"I was actually surprised by how well students budgeted," said Shawhan, an elementary and special education double major from Dale. "Some knew they only had a few dollars and they didn't want to go into debt, even though they wanted to have fun."

The students finished the activity with donating to any of a series of local nonprofits. One of the most popular was the Terre Haute Humane Society, which helps save cats, dogs and other animals while helping find them a loving "forever" home.

"What you give to the community goes back to you," said Peggy Murdock, interim president of Junior Achievement of the Wabash Valley, which helped organize Let'$ Get Real. "It's important to instill that in students at a young age."

Photo: (ISU/Rachel Keyes)Otter Creek Middle School student Kaitlyn Hankins (right) works with Indiana State University professor Marylin Leinenbach (left) and Indiana State junior Haley Shawhan at the annual Let'$ Get Real financial literacy event at Woodrow Wilson Middle School. In the event, students are given hypothetical careers and families, then have to budget based on their monthly salaries to teach them about important lessons in financial literacy.

Photo: (ISU/Rachel Keyes) Indiana State University master's student Casey Jonas works with a student at the Let'$ Get Real financial literacy event. At the event, students have to budget for all the costs they will incur as adults living on their own, including a "wheel of fortune" stop where they may receive an unexpected bill - such as for a doctor's visit - or they may receive money, just as they might in real life.

Photo: (ISU/Rachel Keyes)Brenda Hall, associate director of financial aid at Indiana State, works with a student during the Let'$ Get Real financial literacy event. Event volunteers -including Indiana State faculty, staff and students, among others - taught students about the different options they have and how to budget to make the best choices possible.

Contact: Peggy Murdock, interim president, Junior Achievement of the Wabash Valley, 812-232-6230 or

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or

Story Highlights

Indiana State students, staff and faculty members volunteered in the Let'$ Get Real financial literacy workshop that provides jr. high students a glimpse of a hypothetical adulthood and lets them plan for budgeting of their monthly bills based on income.

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