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Topics / EDUCATION : These Students Get a Dose of Adulthood

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Piano music sounded as the brides-in-training, all 55 of them, marched down the aisle clad in white lace and satin, arm in arm with their bridegrooms.

In unison the couples repeated the vow: “I take thee to be my hypothetical wife/husband through thick and through thin, in time of plenty and in time of want, till June do us part.”

“You may now hug the bride,” the minister, Mountain View High School Principal Gloria Acosta-Arau, announced. "(Your) honeymoon: You have no homework tonight.”

Last Thursday, 110 students from the El Monte school’s elective course “On Your Own” symbolically tied the knot. Designed to prepare them for the day-to-day realities of adult life, the course simulates the realities of marriage and parenthood.

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In the six months before the ceremony, students date, plan a budget, find a job, rent an apartment, file taxes and prepare for their wedding together.

“When kids graduate from the class, it makes them aware there’s a lot more to marriage than just falling in love,” said teacher Priscilla Robinson, who started the class 17 years ago.

Shivering outside the cafeteria in sleeveless dresses, girls waited nervously for the wedding to begin.

“You have to share everything with someone else,” Alma Gonzalez, 17, said apprehensively. “You have to budget, to be responsible and pay your bills.”

The boys, natty in their suits, huddled together with the energy of a football team before the big game.

“It shows you that life after high school isn’t that easy,” Patrick Macias, 18, said.

In the first semester, boys and girls got to know each other and listed their preferred partners. Robinson matched the 55 couples and paired the remaining 20 girls as roommates.

Before marrying, each student was required to develop a professional cover letter and resume, and find a job through a series of mock interviews with local employers (real ones). Depending on their salaries, the students worked out budgets with their partners, paid bills for a month and then balanced a checkbook.

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On a field trip to apartment buildings, they learned about rental applications, credit checks and evictions, then searched want ads for an apartment that met their needs and budget.

After the wedding, they study nutrition, plan a balanced menu, then simulate a shopping trip, where they add up the cost of groceries they need and adjust their budget, if necessary, to pay for them. They learn about credit, simulate buying a car, and taking out an insurance policy.

In the last month of the class, they have a baby: a five-pound flour sack they must care for 24 hours a day for four weeks, including waking up at 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. to tend it.

Liz Flores said that after taking the class she’s more likely to wait before facing the altar for real.

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“It’s not a game,” she said.


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