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Riverdale offers 'Reality Check' to local teens

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

High school students with a desire to learn important life skills will have a chance to get a taste of the real world during "Reality Check," a free, three-part seminar starting Jan. 23 at Riverdale City Hall.

On three different Saturdays, financial experts, resume coaches, and other volunteers will teach teens how to manage their money, carry themselves in public, and prepare for getting a job.

Riverdale Ward 4 Councilman Kenny Ruffin will serve as host for the three workshops, which are free and available to all Clayton County high school students, according to Ruffin.

A financial-skills workshop will take place on Jan. 23, from 9:30 a.m., to 2 p.m. An etiquette and critical-thinking workshop will take place on Feb. 20, from 9:30 a.m., to 2 p.m., and a resume-building/interview-skills session will take place on March 27, from 9:30 a.m., to 2 p.m.

Ruffin, a member of the National League of Cities and a council member of its Institute for Youth, Education, and Families, said he modeled the workshops after a similar program held in Savannah. He said he believes the workshops can be a "solution-driven" approach to helping young people address missing skill sets.

"They do this program called Step Up Savannah," Ruffin said. "It's a simulation of how to do budgeting. It was actually geared toward adults. They are trying to reduce their poverty level. From that experience, I wanted to bring that to Riverdale and do something with kids.

"There are so many things that young people don't know how to do," Ruffin said. "Nobody has exposed them to it. We don't want them to be surprised about how life works and how preparation is so crucial for success. Hopefully, this will give them a better understanding of the real world."

According to Ruffin, the financial workshop will simulate a month's worth of real-life expenses. At random, students will be given an occupation and a monthly salary, and will have to make their way to 15 different stations, where they will pay for food, clothes, rent, electricity, insurance and other "unintended expenditures," he said.

"They may get a flat tire or their car will break down and they'll have to deal with that," Ruffin said. "They'll understand that if they make $30,000 a year, they can't go out and buy an Escalade. If they go out and buy brand-named clothes, at the end of the month, they might not have enough to pay their electricity."

At the end of the workshop, students will discuss their spending choices with volunteer advisors, according to Ruffin. Topics such as bank accounts, taxes, Medicare, and Social Security withholdings will also be discussed, he said.

The February workshop will address table manners, dressing for the occasion, thinking critically, and interpersonal skills, Ruffin added. The March workshop will take students through mock interviews, creating cover sheets and introduction letters, identifying marketable skills, and drafting job-specific resumes, he said.

Chandra Elliott, an organizational-skills and resume-writing coach who will lead the March workshop on resume writing, said the "Reality Check" workshops will help students identify "transitional skills that will help them get to the next level." She said she hopes the workshops will also encourage students to pursue their education beyond high school.

"It's basically real life, and we are trying to give it to them in a few hours," Elliott said. "In today's economy, you would not be able to survive by yourself if you had a high school education. You would have to stay at home or with friends. We're hoping it's an eye-opening experience for them. The ultimate goal is to get them to do more than they anticipated having to do."

Students interested in attending the workshops, or volunteers interested in helping with the workshops, can contact Kenny Ruffin at (678) 524-1340, Chandra Elliott at (404) 583-8310, or Suzette Antoine at (770) 473-5439. Riverdale City Hall is located at 6690 Church St.