Studying Budgets and Babies, Middle Schoolers Gain New Perspective on Parenthood

By Jordan Rogers, Program Leader

Budgeting for a baby at 16

Michael Alameda, left, and Jordan Rogers studied stroller prices as part of their budgeting discussion.

What is a 16-year-old boy to do when he has no money and a newborn baby?

Fortunately, that’s not a problem any student at The Bridge Golf Foundation has experienced. But many young men do find themselves saddled with such heavy responsibility, so the question has fueled some excellent discussions among our 7th and 8th graders.

The topic came up during our study of poverty and hunger, part of our Character Education and Service Learning curriculum, when our young men made a list of factors that trap people in cycles of poverty. Part preventative, part educational, our student-athletes have been hard at work for the past two weeks, using the Foundation’s Surface tablets and SMART Board to crunch numbers and plan budgets for a high school junior’s worst-case financial scenario.

The exercise started with the young men reporting what they would do with money earned from a part-time fast food job. At $10.50 per hour – New York City’s minimum wage for fast food workers – the boys had high hopes: video games, smart phones, trips to Disney World, and the like. Several kids had a realistic sense of money, but most didn’t. They were not concerned about removing hot fries from a deep fryer or rapidly assembling Big Macs for impatient customers. Having disposable income seemed like a dream come true, and working in fast food seemed worth it – before the hammer dropped.

“Now imagine you have a baby on the way.”

With a newborn coming soon, the terms of the part-time job hardened: after a full day of classes, the teenage father-to-be would go to work from 3-7pm, five days per week. Instead of gadgets and vacations, our struggling father would spend his monthly earnings on clothes, diapers, wipes, bottles, formula, a crib, a stroller, etc.

The middle schoolers were shocked by the cost of having a child. Many students wondered aloud why having a baby was so expensive. Now, when we walk from Eagle Academy to The Bridge Golf Learning Center after school every day, the boys have a newfound appreciation for the parents they see pushing strollers.

They also have a newfound appreciation for their own parents. One student praised the depths of his mother’s love, generosity, and patience now that he has a better understanding of the struggles she faces as a single parent. He felt humbled.

“There’s only one person helping them – themselves,” he said.

Everyone agreed they would put off having kids as long as possible. Alejandro Martinez said he would wait until his mid-to-late twenties. Michael Alameda wanted to wait even longer. “Not until I’m 35 or 40,” he said.

Learning this lesson about the cost of caring for children was valuable during the holiday season. It reminded our young men that providing for family and saving must come before material possessions.

“I learned that you should really save your money, because you never know what will happen,” Michael said.