Facebook Twitter

Real-life woes, bills add up for students at Reality Town

SHARE Real-life woes, bills add up for students at Reality Town

Fourteen-year-old Jenny Stout was in a financial bind. After paying a house payment, medical bills, a car payment and expenses for three kids, she had $2 left.

"I still have to pay for dental, taxes and insurance," said Stout. "I am not going to make it."

Stout was one of more than 300 eighth-graders who got a hefty slice of life this week at Fairfield Junior High in Davis School District. In an activity called Reality Town, students were given real-life scenarios and armed with checkbooks, faux salaries and a laundry list of expenses.

They either sank or swam — and even those who kept their heads above water said it wasn't easy.

Salaries and jobs were given in correlation to a student's GPA — the higher the grades, the better the job. The number of kids varied and was decided by the luck of the draw. Some students were doctors, some were gas station attendants, but the majority said they weren't ready to grow up.

Although the students took the activity seriously there were plenty of complaints: "Why should I have to pay taxes, that's not fair," "I didn't know you had to pay loans back."

Among expenses they had to deal with were child care, groceries, clothes, donations, dental, entertainment, medical, utilities and even life's unexpected experiences.

"Kids don't have a clue what life costs — the food is on the table, the clothes are on the rack," said Lauren Cash, a counselor at the school. "It is an eye opener, but it also motivates them."

Fairfield counselor Mary Ann Thurgood, who directed the activity, said the program was developed to get kids to take a serious look at how the choices they make now can effect them in the future.

"They are learning that how hard they work now has an impact later on," said Thurgood. "I think the biggest thing they comment on is 'I can't believe my parents have to do this every month.' "

Thurgood said about 75 volunteers from various businesses come in and set up shop for the event. Realtors, insurance companies, banks and other organizations set up booths in the gym where kids could visit and discuss their options.

Those kids who ended the game in the black won a 100 Grand candy bar. Those who didn't walked away with a lesson in life.

"It really is important for parents to set an example," said Bill Farley, a volunteer with Caldwell Banker. "You can tell the difference between kids growing up with parents who budget their money and those who don't."

Reality Town was part of Esteem and Dream Week at the school, where students can build self-esteem while exploring career options and learning more about themselves.

"The strongest theme we are pushing this week is 'like who you are,' " said assistant principal James Gordon.

"It's important to connect them with authenticity — there is a purpose to our education, and we are going somewhere with it," said Gordon.

"When you are in junior high you are struggling with a lot of issues . . . it's a pretty complicated and frustrating time, and it's nice to have a week to fall back and remind students they're great and they're going to do it."

E-mail: terickson@desnews.com