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Students ‘Get a Life’ at West Hills Middle School Event

Dec 08, 2015 01:01PM ● Published by Bryan Scott

By Mylinda LeGrande

West Jordan - Ninth-grade students had a dose of reality on Oct. 20 at West Hills Middle School. Reality Town is a hands-on experience where students are allowed to make financial and life choice decisions such as careers, home and car buying. Students were able to choose a career based on their GPA. The higher the GPA, the higher their pay would be. 

“Work-based learning enhances college and careers and how they work together. Reality Town is the financial part. Grades do matter for this scenario. What we are trying to say is that you need to budget your money,” Marta Rae Diamond, a work-based learning representative for the district, said.

To include different family scenarios, the students were assigned to be married with a spouse that works full time, to be a stay-at-home parent or be a student/part-time employee. Some of them were also a single parent.  Each was randomly assigned to have one to three children.  

Armed with their financial booklets, the students arrived in the school gym dressed in attire appropriate to their chosen career.  The goal was to stop at each financial booth that was manned mostly by parent volunteers.  Booths were comprised of housing, taxes, transportation, groceries, bank, child care, doctor’s office, utilities, entertainment and others. With a set amount of income they were able to pay bills, choose housing and transportation.  

America First Credit Union representative, Melissa Veltri, assisted in the financial/banking booth. The bank also donated the booklets and checkbooks for the students to use during the event. 

“We really believe in promoting financial literacy and financial education. These kids are going to be our future; they are going to our next members, borrowers and savers. We come out in the community and do various activities with the kids not to necessarily promote ourselves, but to be in the community and give correct information,” Veltri said. 

This school experience was meant to be fun for the students, but also proved stressful.  If wise choices weren’t made or there was a calculation error in their checkbook, students ran out of money and had to visit the financial advice booth where they were advised to sell their expensive house back, get a loan or be advised to get a second job.

It wasn’t without problems, either.  One student, Lyndsey, had a salary of over $90,000 as a psychologist, but also had a spouse who was a student and worked part time, and had three kids.  She wasn’t allowed to use the spouse’s income for childcare, which seemed unrealistic.  She seemed very flustered, as she explained why she wasn’t having a good time. 

“I made all the right economic choices: buying the cheapest house and car, choosing the economic choice on food, and I still ended up with no money. I’m not sure if the volunteers calculated my checkbook wrong for me or what, but I didn’t even go to all the booths.  How does that happen with my amount of given income?” she said.

Despite the stress of the real-to-life experience, it was an overall success. Students experienced how their choices and grades they make now will impact them in the future. 

“I think it’s a really good hands-on learning experience. I’m trying to teach my kids how to manage their money.  This helps them understand what moms and dads do,” parent of a WHMS student, Marnie Brussell, said.        

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