For seven years, Julie McComb has taught an Adult Roles and Responsibilities course to juniors and seniors at Westfield High School (WHS). McComb starts the course by asking students to create a vision board that outlines their future goals and aspirations. For some, this includes going to college. For others it involves technical training or entering the workforce.
“The great thing about this class is that it fits everybody’s needs,” McComb says. “We prepare our kids for the day after graduation, whatever that future may be.”
McComb has the students take two aptitude tests to find out where their natural abilities lie. This helps to determine areas in which they will be successful.
“If students can find something that they are interested in, are good at, are passionate about, and that can bring some good to the world, you’ve hit the jackpot,” says McComb, who speaks from experience.
For 15 years, she worked as vice president of a bank. Though she made a good living, she didn’t feel fulfilled.
“Something was missing,” McComb says. “It wasn’t until I became a teacher that I truly found my purpose.”
She has students complete a budget project based off of the major purchases they’ll be making once they are on their own. To personalize the exercise, McComb has students research what their first-year income would be in the position they desire. Based on that figure, students set up a budget for the remainder of the class.
Once students calculate their average income, McComb has them determine if they can afford to buy a house or apartment. They must use funds to furnish their home with basic necessities such as a bed and dishes. They also have to buy a car, and learn about the costs of registration, plates and insurance. McComb explains the difference between collision and comprehensive insurance, and the advantages of bundling for discounts. The goal of the exercise is to avoid exceeding budget projections.
Though it’s not a mandatory class, Lindsay Deck, a 2020 WHS graduate, calls it the most beneficial class of her high school career.
“It taught me more about the real world than I would have ever thought a high school class could,” Deck says.
The course even includes a wedding project, which guides students through a step-by-step template of what wedding planning looks like, as well as how to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form.
“Adulting is stressful,” says McComb, who also invites guest speakers to the class to offer first-hand perspectives on various industries. “Knowing that I’ve prepared these kids to make some of the most important decisions in their life is so rewarding. Once they have gone through this class, they have the necessary tools to be successful.”
Motivational speaker Rene Couto delivers an inspirational talk to the students that highlights the importance of never giving up on one’s dreams. He speaks from experience, as he always wanted to play college football but was told by players and coaches that he’d never make it due to his small stature. Couto prevailed and landed a full scholarship playing for the University of Louisville.
“Not only did he end up playing as a walk-on, but he played at the Fiesta Bowl and won,” McComb says.
Daniel Lauer, a 2020 graduate of WHS, says the course taught him that becoming an adult doesn’t have to be hard.
“I never knew how to balance a checkbook, weigh out different car and home insurance options, the importance of establishing good credit, what goes into buying a house, and how the bank qualifies you,” Lauer says. “After taking the class, I feel confident that I can now make educated decisions on all of these topics and more.”