This year, the 4th Annual Youth Leadership Conference will be hosted by the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast in partnership with United For a Good Cause.

At the event, they will team up with me, your Family and Consumer Science Agent at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension, to help teens prepare for life after high school by engaging in Living On My Own, a hands-on simulation.

This is a unique experience for teens, in which they are assigned careers and family situations (married with two children, for example) and then visit 12 simulation stations to decide on housing options, child care and whether to purchase cable TV.

Students do the math and calculate their living expenses vs. their income. Some of them have a real eye-opening experience and find that they may need to get a second job, or live without the fancy sports car; and realize they should never forget about those “life happens” events — they have to figure those out too! 

Teens are also encouraged to give back by volunteering or donating to a charity. The goal is for students to learn financial and life skills, and realize that decisions you make, even as a teen, have an impact on your future and potential financial independence.  

In addition to Living On My Own, guest speakers will present throughout the day on leadership and empowerment as well as entrepreneurship. Lots of giveaways and lunch are also included. 

The Youth Leadership Conference is open to all area students, grades seven through 12, with a cost of $10 to register. The event takes place April 22, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast Youth Center, 923 Denton Blvd. NW, Fort Walton Beach. Parents can register students at unitedforagoodcause.org.

Also happening at the UF-IFAS Extension: The Okaloosa County Master Gardener Association Lecture Series' "Nature’s Bounty on a Woodland Trail," featuring Bob Bayer, Okaloosa County Master Gardener, is Wednesday, April 19, 10-11 a.m. at the Okaloosa Extension Office, 3098 Airport Road, Crestview.

For more information call the UF-IFAS Okaloosa County Extension office at 689-5850.

Jill Breslawski is an agent at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension office in Crestview.