GCMS 8th graders got a dose of "reality" at the annual Reality Store, a cooperative program sponsored by 4-H Extension, FRC and Chamber of Commerce. It's an early step in financial literacy and learning the importance of making smart financial choices on their way to adulthood. It also emphasizes the value of education and skills training, since these factors figure in to income levels.
The middle-schoolers are randomly assigned a job, income and family size. They visit booths representing typical monthly expenses such as housing, transportation, groceries, healthcare, childcare and all the others that make up a budget. As they go through the process they learn to make their ends meet and, in some cases, even wind up with something left over at the end of the "month". Many, however, find themselves forced to take on extra jobs and forego many of the "luxury" items they may now consider "necessities", such as entertainment.
There were also some real life "surprises" - fines for texting or driving without a seatbelt – as Resource Officer Bryan Hammons issued a fair share of citations. And many students were visited by "Lady Luck" which could be extra money good or yet another, and unexpected, bill to have to juggle.
Students reactions to the experience revolved mainly around education ("You need a good education for a good paying job."), making good choices ("Even if you have a good paying job you still have to watch how you spend your money."), and being prepared for the unexpected ("Surprises happen and they could hurt you.")
Community volunteers help guide 8th graders make wise decisions as they experience the "reality" of working through monthly budgets, expenses and surprises.