On May 10, nearly two dozen middle school students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (DHH) gathered in Detroit to get a handle on their budgets and expenses.

Not their actual budgets and expenses, of course.

The students were at Junior Achievement (JA) of Southeastern Michigan’s Finance Park facility, learning about careers, taxes, savings, retirement, and other life skills that are crucial for all students as they plan to transition to post-school life. Students from Detroit Public Schools and Bloomfield Hills Schools participated.

Unique Opportunity in Michigan

The Finance Park event, which was a collaboration between MDE-LIO and JA of Southeastern Michigan, was the first of its kind for students in Michigan who are DHH.

Inspired by a JA event that is held annually in Washington state for students who are DHH, MDE-LIO DHH consultants John Kirsh and Beth Rice wanted to provide the same kind of opportunity for students in Michigan. Kirsh and Rice reached out to JA of Southeastern Michigan, which then worked with the JA chapter in Washington state to understand how to plan and conduct an event solely for students who are DHH.

The program is important for students who are DHH because it allows them to learn transition skills via real-world, hands-on experience with other students who are DHH. Because the event is conducted in sign language, students are also able to practice skills with fewer communication barriers.

Lessons Taught in Advance

Before students travel to the Finance Park facility, teachers cover 13 in-class lessons for a few months beforehand. JA provides a traditional format and a project-based format for these lessons, which cover income; saving, investing, and risk management; debit and credit; and budget. After the lessons are taught, students apply their learning at the Finance Park facility and debrief afterward.

At the start of the May 10 event, the students were assigned a household status and income. Using an iPad app, the students decided how much of their budget to allocate on rent or mortgage, car insurance, food, utilities, and other needs. They then visited simulated businesses in the facility to “purchase” these services.

As students worked on their budgets, Kirsh noticed that a few students were surprised to learn how much money it takes to raise a child or what might need to be sacrificed to own a fancy car. Those moments of realization and understanding were exactly what Kirsh hoped students would gain from the event.

“Even the adults, myself included, wished they had this opportunity when they were in middle school,” Kirsh said.

Extra Resources: Transition Skills

To learn about other transition-related skills that are helpful for students who are DHH, visit MDE-LIO’s Career Education and Self-Determination and Advocacy pages. These skills are part of the Expanded Core Curriculum for Students Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing [PDF].

(Image courtesy of Junior Achievement)