Students in Mary Middleton’s Personal Finance class at Topeka West got a peek into their futures when they participated in Reality U on Wednesday, March 26th. An event organized by Communities in Schools of Mid-America, Reality U is a fast-paced financial literacy exercise that helps educate young adults about the realities of living in the “real world.”
Middleton’s students, mostly juniors and seniors, have spent the semester learning about colleges and careers, how to make a budget and how to balance a checkbook. Prior to Spring Break, each student filled out a questionnaire about their goals for their future. They were asked to picture themselves at 26 years old. What kind of life did they want to have? What were their educational and career aspirations?
Ashley Ferguson, Reality U’s coordinator, looked at the students’ questionnaire answers to create hypothetical scenarios for the students to work with. She assigned each of them a job, salary, debt amount, credit score, marital status, parental status and a slew of other criteria for the students to work with. The kids also had a blank checkbook register to fill out during the exercise.
The students then traveled to booths manned by community volunteers. Each booth featured a different expense that adults typically pay for. Some of the booths included housing, transportation, utilities, insurance and groceries, among others. There was even a booth called “Chance” in which the students rolled the dice to see what unexpected expense or financial windfall they would have to budget for, such as new tires or overtime pay.
Junior Grant Hebert said the experience show him that adulthood is “ridiculously expensive,” and made him consider the costs of college. “It makes me think about student loans, which can be very expensive, and encourages me to look for scholarships quite a bit more.”
Ciera Allen, also a junior, said she enjoyed learning about what to expect as an adult. “Now, while we’re still in high school, our parents do everything for us, so (Reality U) helps prepare us for real life.”
Ms. Middleton, an eight-year veteran of TWHS, plans to have the students use the lessons they learned at Reality U to continue their personal finance education.