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Dose of reality hits Eastmont eighth-graders

Dec 01, 2017 08:00AM ● Published by Julie Slama

Eastmont eighth-grader Faisal Fahed writes a check for vacation as part of the school’s reality town. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

Several Eastmont eighth-graders crowded around a table marked “entertainment” in their school gym, anxious to sign up for a mock cruise or five-day vacation. Instead, most walked away with less expensive options such as going camping or getting a Netflix subscription.

“The kids are so excited for Reality Town, but when they get here, they get a dose of reality,” said parent Emily Osborne, who volunteered to oversee the entertainment portion of the event. “I noticed a lot of kids who don’t have a lot of money, want to spend more on a vacation and those who do have money, want to spend the least. It’s a little like reality.”

Osborne, who is a secretary in the school’s counseling center, said that reality also hits when students realize their life situations — maybe being a single parent with three kids — isn’t matching how they planned.

“It can be like reality because you don’t know how your life will turn out. Many of them realize they can’t afford everything they plan and have to get a second job. They’re learning the importance of needing to save,” she said.

Eighth-grader Kayla Siebeneck said she was learning where all her money was going — childcare, transportation, utilities. 

“I’m learning how life works,” she said. “This is interesting because I’m making the choices that my parents usually do like what kind of insurance.”

Kayla, who was assigned the career of neurosurgeon, also was a single parent for the exercise. She said it is a good thing she has insurance since her child broke his arm and she paid less for the doctor bills.

“I’m understanding how other people in real life are faced with these circumstances. Even in the best circumstances, you never know what will happen,” she said.

Classmate Ella Poppleton, whose mock career was an audiologist, also appreciated insurance when it picked up part of the bill of her spouse’s illness.

“It’s important to get insurance,” she said, adding that through Reality Town she learned how to write a check and know the balance in her checkbook while several other classmates were using mock debit cards to pay for services.

While Kayla wasn’t facing difficulty paying all her bills, others were. Counselor Julie Taucher said students were assigned careers based on their cumulative sixth- and seventh-grade GPAs.

“We want students to realize why it’s important to have good grades to help them enter college and be prepared for careers,” she said. “This gives them an idea of why they need to work hard now to have the career they want so they can accomplish what they want in life. It’s a great learning experience.”

Taucher said they give bonuses to student if they dress to match their career and if they bring in coupons to help purchase groceries.

“We want to simulate real life. If they’re hurting financially, maybe Grandma may be willing to babysit and we allow them to bring in a note from their parents saying that. It shows they’re taking responsibility for their situation. Same with vacation — in real life, they will need to save for it, so either they can spend money this month or they can save for something bigger in the future,” she said.

Eighth-grader Faisal Fahed was planning to get everything and hoped his monthly salary as a sports therapist would cover it.

“I’d like to buy cars, have pets and I want a house,” he said after writing a check for his family to go on vacation.

Many students make adjustments during the mock real-world setting as they learned how to balance careers and family all on a set budget.

“I love to see their faces,” Taucher said. “Many of them had no idea how expensive everything is and they have that ‘a-ha’ moment when they recall their parents saying, ‘We’ll have to see if we can afford it’ with all the bills they’re paying each month.”

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