New program gives students a taste of reality

Kale Williams

By Chris Forte, Shawnee Mission North HS, Overland Park, Kan.

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On Jan. 27 and Feb. 12 students participated in Reality U, a program intended to educate high school students about the intricacies of budgeting finances as an adult. Ms. Carol Ann Washer, one of the teachers whose classes participated in the program, describes it as a “big picture of budgeting after high school and allows them an interactive experience with budgeting on a monthly basis.”

Students were required to take a survey asking them questions about their plans after high school during the first phase of the program on Jan. 27. On Feb. 12, their answers were compiled into character profiles they received during the second phase. These character profiles included what career that particular participant would have by the age of 26, whether or not they were married or had children, and the monthly income they’d receive based on their career.

The activities during phase two required students to visit 14 stations representing necessities they would need for survival as a well-adjusted adult. Several adult volunteers from around the community came to run the stations and helped students figure out effective plans to save and spend their money wisely. Volunteers had to sign a sheet logging what stations the students had visited, what they had bought, and how much money they had left to spend from they initial amount they began with. The stations included childcare, transportation and transportation insurance, groceries, banking, housing, clothing, etc.

I’m hoping that we’ll be able to bring it back next year. We’re hoping to expand the number of students we are reaching in the building.”

— Carol Ann Washer, teacher

Special stations were designated to help participants whose money dwindled to the point where financial assistance would be required. After visiting all 14 stations, students were asked their opinions of the program and whether or not it significantly changed how they thought about making financial decisions as an adult.

“They understood that even the smallest item that they might ask their parents for really does amount to a big expense in the larger picture of their budgeting for the month,” Washer said. “I’m hoping that we’ll be able to bring it back next year. We’re hoping to expand the number of students we are reaching in the building.”

The projected amount of students who participated in the program was 70 to 75.  The adult volunteers also gave positive feedback regarding their own experience with the program.

“They really felt that the small group of kids that they had wasn’t large enough at one time coming in,” Washer said, “But they were able to really sit down and have a one on one conversation and talking with each of them individually.”

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