Adult in training: Y program teaches teens to tackle taxes, budgets, voting, and more

Every day, young adults leave the nest and embark on journeys into adulthood, leaving behind parents crossing their fingers and hoping for the best, while expecting panicked calls home for advice or assistance.

This fall, however, the Dow Bay Area Family YMCA, 225 Washington Ave., is committed to helping teens become more self-sufficient and giving parents more peace of mind through a six-week course, “Almost Adulting.” The class is an engaging, hands-on crash course in life skills.

Melissa Preston, Youth and Family Director for the Dow Bay Area Family YMCA, has whittled down a core list of skills that she noticed were most commonly lacking in the teens and young adults she has worked with over the years.

“A lot of teens openly joke that when they turn 18 they don’t know how to vote, they don’t know what they are voting on, they don’t know how taxes work. It was kind of a running joke. So when we looked at where skill set gaps were with kids that I had worked with, we saw a lot of skills needed revolving around understanding voting, taxes, budgeting, and household maintenance,” Preston says.

In the 'Almost Adulting' class at the Dow Bay Area Family YMCA kids will learn skills such as filing taxes, how to vote, budgeting, car maintenance, and more. Throughout the course, businesses and individuals with special expertise from the community will present  information in seven key areas: filing taxes and a basic understanding of how they work, the basics behind voting and registering to vote, home care and management, budgeting and financial management, car care and safety, kitchen skill basics, and resumes and job interviews.

While most adults understand why these kinds of skills are essential for success, some wonder why these types of courses are needed. Why aren’t kids learning these skills at home or school? Preston says that the answer is simple: a shift in the focus of schools and society.

“In some research I have done the big thing is really how we as a society have changed. If you look at past generations, especially Boomers or Gen Xers, you see them entering the workforce far sooner. They are entering around 15, 16, they are working these part-time, starter jobs … there was more push to get them into the workforce than there is now. Now, we are really focused on the academic success of our children, what their experience in high school looks like, their sports, their extracurriculars. It’s because we push heavily toward going to college,” Preston says.

In some ways, schools have their hands tied. While the skills taught in classes such as home economics and shop are valuable, school budgets tend to focus increasingly toward on the core areas, a.k.a. those that show up on state and national tests.

Preston explains, “Due to standardized testing, schools had to move to push toward more academic success in the core skills areas, less into what were considered the extracurricular subjects like home economics and shop. If you are going off standardized testing, you need to hit the big four: English, math, science, and social studies.”

Almost Adulting will certainly fill in many of the gaps that this societal and educational shift has caused, and due to support from the United Way of Bay County, it will be free of charge to all participants.

Staff at the Y say one reason they're offering the 'Almost Adulting' class is because kids tell them they don't understand the basics of voting. The class seeks to change that. Nicole Luczak, CEO and Executive Director for the United Way of Bay County, says the agency is excited to help fund the YMCA’s newest program for teens.

“United Way’s investment process is community member driven, meaning that allocations are recommended by a committee of diverse volunteers. Every program must align with the focus areas of health, education, and income stability, what we believe to be the building blocks of a successful life. The Almost Adulting program at the YMCA provides skills that teens may not otherwise learn but are absolutely essential in life. We are excited to see the impact it has in setting up the young people in our community to be self-sufficient and lead successful lives,” Luczak says.

Joslyn Jamrog, Membership and Marketing Director for the Y, says she is excited to offer programs for teens. “We are working on new programming for people in this age group. It’s part of our strategic plan to find more for this age group to do. It is exciting for us!”

 The Y also offers financial assistance programs to help defray costs.

The Almost Adulting program is being offered to teens ages 14-18 on Mondays from Nov. 2 through Dec. 12 from 3:30-4:30 p.m. in the YMCA’s pool lounge. Jamrog says the program will be offered in two more sessions, one during the winter and one during the spring.

Though Almost Adulting is free, pre-registration is required, and the program is limited to a maximum of 30 participants. To register now, visit the online registration page or call the front desk at (989) 895-8596.

If you or someone you know is an adult expert with specific skills that fit one of the seven topic areas and would be interested in teaching, contact Preston at (989) 895-8596.

Preston is hopeful that the program will be impactful to attendees. She says, “We want to give them the jumping off point to have a little bit of a softer landing as they transition out from the home into these independent spaces such as college or the workforce.”