From within the safety of West Point High School’s cafeteria, students took a stab at budgeting, managing car payments and other financial facts of life in a glimpse of what’s to come.
Reality Store is a simulation in which students are given an adult identity and paycheck and are tasked with paying regular bills for a month. Participants must juggle factors such as student loans and family expenses while remaining within the confines of their paycheck.
The experience gives students a sense of the importance of financial responsibility in a realistic and engaging activity as they enter adulthood and prepare to fend for themselves, business teacher Pamela Steele said.
“They have bills to pay and lives,” Steele said. “It opens eyes.”
The simulation is part of Steele’s financial literacy and economics course curriculum, and all the students who participated, who are mostly sophomores, were enrolled in the course.
West Point High School’s cafeteria was transformed Oct. 17 into something like a living version of the classic board game The Game of Life. Area residents, some from local businesses, volunteered to assume the roles of bankers, car salesmen and daycare operators at various stations.
Students were able to choose a profession after doing some research about what type of education is needed in various fields. Steele then assigned them a typical salary in that career.
Armed with a debit card and paycheck, students moved from station to station as they attempted to keep the lights on and the car gassed up for a month.
Ellen Kurek, of Citizens and Farmers Bank, offered credit cards to interested students as part of the simulation, which she called a realistic foray into what life will be like for them financially.
The simulation has value because it allows students to “start realizing the choices they make and how it’s going to impact their financial future,” Kurek said.
Students appreciated the simulation because it provided a practical educational opportunity that would be useful in life after high school.
“These are things we’re actually going to use,” sophomore Peyton Brabrand said. Brabrand played the role of a married drone pilot.
“It shows how life is going to be when we get older,” said Keyaira Braxton, another sophomore, who played an engineer.
Students played specific roles in the scenario, with different marital statuses, numbers of children, jobs and educations.
While students worked, they would occasionally get hit with a traffic ticket or a denied credit card, random events that mimicked the unexpected challenges of life and had to be resolved. The experience is a good problem-solving opportunity for students to learn how to make ends meet, Steele said.
The simulation has been done for West Point students for a little more than a decade. After the simulation, the class will cover topics such as saving and budgeting in the classroom to reinforce the experience, Steele said.
Jacobs can be reached by phone at 757-298-6007.