Kids these days might be able to tackle calculus in school or score points on the field, but do they know how to write a check, change a tire or put together a resume? Shannon Claton of Castle Rock …
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Kids these days might be able to tackle calculus in school or score points on the field, but do they know how to write a check, change a tire or put together a resume?
Shannon Claton of Castle Rock says not enough of today's young people feel confident in their skills outside the classroom.
Claton used to work in the food and beverage industry. When training employees in their late teens or early 20s, she says she began to see a pattern. Meetings might start with job training but often segued into other topics, such as how to rent an apartment, buy a car or get insurance.
“They didn't know how,” Claton said about many of her younger employees. “That got me thinking, wait a minute, where's the disconnect here? How do we fill this gap?”
So, Claton decided to try and build the bridge herself. She still works her full-time job as an office manager at a dental office, but on the weekends, she is now teaching life skills classes for teens and young adults who want to learn beyond what their traditional education offered.
Learnlife is an eight-week course of two-hour classes covering a slew of topics — from job interview dos and don'ts to personal finances to basic home maintenance. For now, the classes are free but capped at 10 students. Eventually, she hopes to teach the classes full-time and with her own facility. Until then she is running her program from her home.
On Feb. 24, Claton led a group of teenagers seated around her dining room table through their introduction to her course.
She explained what they could expect to learn but also asked the students what they wanted to cover. One by one they named topics such as social media etiquette, changing a tire, filing taxes, budgeting, understanding credit scores and improving interpersonal skills.
The skills are similar to what students could learn at school through a family and consumer sciences course, formerly called home economics. Family and consumer sciences covers topics including personal and family finance, food science, nutrition and consumer issues.
According to the American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences, the courses are still offered at schools in all 50 states, but often as an elective, and not without program setbacks.
The association reports a 2014 study conducted at Pittsburg (Kansas) State University found 50 percent of states say a shortage of highly qualified family and consumer sciences teachers is a concern. In addition to the teacher shortage, the study also found student enrollment in secondary family and consumer sciences had declined 38 percent in the last 10 years.
“They're taught in school math, science, English, and that's great,” Claton said. “There's just a missing element.”
Listening in on Claton's Feb. 24 class was her longtime friend, Leslie Soell, who enrolled her daughter Grace, 17, a senior at Conifer High School, in Claton's course. Grace will be attending college at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix after she graduates. Soell said she first saw Learnlife as an opportunity for her daughter to learn about avoiding debt and budgeting before entering college.
“I thought it sounded perfect for Grace,” she said. “I think she's going to benefit from everything that was mentioned.”
Claton said for young people preparing for college, or those just entering adulthood, knowing how to navigate life can be intimidating, particularly when they don't feel confident in their skills needed outside of school.
She hopes to help change that. More information about Claton's program and enrollment is available on her website, learnlife.co.
“My goal,” Claton said, “is that the kids become successfully independent.”
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