News and Headlines
News and Headlines
EMS eighth grade students get dose of financial reality at Reality U
EMS eighth grade students participated in Reality U to gain a better understanding of financial planning on May 18.

Students filled out a short survey that used their GPA to determine monthly income, credit score, the number of children they had, the amount of student loan debt, marital status and whether or not they would enter the military. Students were then given a paper passport to record these results.

At Reality U, several stations were set up and manned by community volunteers. Students visited the stations to purchase a car; choose whether to rent or buy a house; choose the size of the house; choose child care; purchase groceries; obtain insurance; buy a phone, internet or cable plan; choose entertainment such as hunting and fishing licenses or zoo trips; and roll the dice at the chance station to see if they had an unexpected bill or received unexpected money.

For each station, students had to deduct the payment from their pre-determined monthly income using the checkbook page of the passport. If they ran out of money before the end of the month, they had to evaluate their selections and make different choices to stay within budget.

Students seemed to enjoy the activity. They compared budgets, vehicles, and houses as they moved through each of the stations. As their bills piled up, students were surprised to see how quickly their money disappeared.

Caleb Winter was divorced and had to pay child support for his children. It made budgeting tough.

"It's more difficult than I expected," Winter said.

He wasn't the only one who found out budgeting is hard work. Kaden Carson took his time choosing a family-friendly, inexpensive entertainment option. Marv Louks offered him some sound advice.

"Think ahead about how to make it work for you," Louks advised. He suggested looking at volunteer opportunities or part-time jobs in an area of interest. Sometimes employees and volunteers receive free or discounted prices, which could save a family money.

Carson finally selected the $50 family fitness center membership.

"I like to do sports and fun activities," Carson said. The family membership gave him the most bang for his buck by offering a variety of activities for his children and himself without breaking his monthly budget.

Reality U wouldn't have been possible without the community volunteers that worked at each station and helped students choose options that were suitable to their income level.

"A lot of our programs [at United Way] are with mentoring and advocating. I felt like this was a great program and wanted to be a part of it," Kimberly Ekum said.

The middle school plans to offer this program again next year to continue promoting financial literacy among USD 490 students.