Carroll County Middle School eighth graders picked up the check on February 21. A “Real Money. Real World” reality check, that is.
“I feel it went very well. The objectives that we primarily wanted to accomplish were,” said Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development Associate Agent Jonette Mungo. “A lot of the success we had would not have been possible without the people at those tables. The interaction was fun.”
She also praised the work of school counselors, who conducted career match surveys for the students before the simulation so they had a starting point of what their future life could be before the simulation.
The Real Money simulation is a financial literacy course by Ohio State University Extension. An earlier effort by the School District, a “Reality Store,” resembled many of the elements of Real Money. Real World. According to Mungo, Carroll was the first county in Southwest Virginia to do this program, in a collaborative effort including The United Way, the CCPSD, Cooperative Extension and the Board of Supervisors.
Preparations for the simulation included Extension agents teaching four, 90-minute classes which were condensed to require less of classroom time. Students were brought into the Carroll County Middle School gym on February 21 for the simulation of one year fiscally. Family sizes were determined by randomly drawing from a “baby box.”
“Our community business volunteers who manned the simulation stations loved the program,” Mungo said. “After they got to see it they said I wish I could have sent my kids through this. A lot of the kids were out of money before they hit the hard decisions. More of them finished with a positive balance than we thought they would.”
Mungo said she saw many participants begin with an elaborate vehicle picked out. She said when the reality of costs of insurance set in they quickly went from a top-end car to the cheapest vehicle. Housing and rent booth volunteer Keith Clark of Mountain Sky Properties, Inc. said he saw a lot of students surprised to find out how much actually goes into buying a house and the fees paid.
“After finding out a lot of the expenses required a lot of them said, ‘OK, so what can I afford,’” said Clark. “That was the most asked question for me.”
A financial advice station manned by Edward Jones representative Ches Helmick and Carter Bank & Trust representative Hank Testerman proved popular with long lines of students trying to cover the basics in a quest for a positive balance at the end of the simulation. A cell phone station manned by volunteers Cathy Bachara and Marie Terry also appeared to be a popular booth.
“We’ve had several give up television and Internet for their cell phones,” Bachara said. “They found out the costs, came back and admitted they couldn’t afford it. To see them connect it all is amazing.”
Volunteer Margie Quesenberry said she thought the simulation was great for teaching students about the real world. She said she wished she’d had a similar class in school when she was younger.
“Some didn’t realize the cost and what they would have to pay for routine things. The volunteers were happy to share the reality of it with them,” Mungo said.
She said she will return to the school in May for follow-up interviews to see if students followed through on any of their goals, including opening a checking account, building college transcripts or planning for trade certification classes. It was not without surprises for her though.
“The students were initially satisfied with a positive balance but they wanted more. They didn’t feel they were successful if they had $200 left in their account. For them it raised the question what it was to be successful. While a positive balance was a win they felt it can go better. They saw what they had to sacrifice for a regular lifestyle opposed to the lavish one they had imagined. The sacrifice is real.”
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.