10 Country: Jenny Fights Bankruptcies - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

10 Country: Jenny Fights Bankruptcies

January 11, 2007            

Tifton  --  Last year, Georgia got a designation that it would prefer not to have.  A new study shows more bankruptcies are filed in Georgia than in any of the other 49 states.

But that could change sooner rather than later. A Tift County high school teacher is on a crusade to teach high schoolers to manage their money wisely.            

For the many who believe the school of hard knocks is the best place to get an education, then meet its star teacher.  "It's just like real life," says Jenny Abercrombie, a social studies teacher who looks as youthful as her students.            

Teenagers can learn to manage their money in her classroom, number 127. "Limited resources; Unlimited wants," says Konisha Clark, one of her students.            

Konisha and her fellow students often get dose of reality. "Remember you borrowed from Moose who uses tactics that can be very painful," says Jenny.            

A painful event happened to Jalisa Green. "No money at all," says Jalisa with a sad expression even though she had her play money lifted.  Someone had stolen it.

Her solution? Borrow five thousand dollars from a loan shark and pay six thousand dollars back. "That's their choice," says Jenny.            

Konisha learned from her friend's bad experience. "I put half of my money in the bank and pay cash for my bills," says Konisha.            

In her real-world simulation, each student starts with $10,000 to buy a car, rent an apartment--  establish their adult lives . It sounds like a lot of money, but it goes quickly.              

"You are paying me your rent, your phone bill and your gas and electricity bill," says Jenny as she adds each expense.            

One student wants to invest in a highly speculative real estate deal hoping to make a quick buck. "Make sure you can afford to invest in whatever it is you are choosing," says Jenny about the transaction that involves two lots costing $1,000 each.            

Sometimes, she chooses to play the role of an insurance agent where she teaches them the differences between the various types.   "If you want to keep your insurance, pay your payment," says Jenny.            

At every class, every student must deal with an economic surprise.  The luck of the draw determines if they get a windfall or an expensive lesson. "Dog hit by car. Owes $1,001.09," says a student.            

Money she doesn't have. So, what will she do? "Get money from a loan," says the student.            

Another student must pay for an unexpected plumbing expense, but not all of their experiences costs money they don't have. Frequently, they get a windfall, like winning the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes.            

"I actually won the $10,000," says another student. And some students find their investments pay off. "It's worth $5,000 now," says Jenny about a $4,000 investment.                      

But why does Jenny Abercrombie spend so much effort teaching what the students could learn from a book?   "I had a difficult childhood growing up," says Jenny.            

The family of seven had plenty of love, but little money. "I can remember being picked on every once in a while about the clothes I wore," says Jenny.            

Now, her students can remember how to manage their money and avoid bankruptcy.             Stephanie Damron works a part time job and use to spend all her money on music CDs and clothes.

But she changed her spending habits.  "I have a savings account with $1,000 in it," says Stephanie. "I'm better prepared to go into the economy.            

"I got a checking account and learned to balance my money correctly," says David Stokes.

Thanks to a teacher who realized that her modest upbringing coupled with a quality education can take some of the sting out of the school of hard knocks.  Jenny Abercrombie began teaching 15 years ago.

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