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Students get a glimpse of Reality

DCHS Journalism

Stacia Russ

November 17, 2017

Last week, DCHS students got a little taste of how life could be for them in the future. The students took part in an activity called RealityU.


Counselor Brenda Breth and Principal Ben Jimenez learned of the program at a conference they attended last spring.  Several schools across the state use the program, which is based out of Wichita, to teach personal finance in a fun, engaging way.


The school district paid for half of the cost, and Mrs. Breth applied for a grant through the Decatur Community Education Foundation for the other half.


RealityU is a 75-minute activity where students simulate one month of their possible lives at the age of 26. Reality U determines what a student’s life might be like based on the answers from a short survey all Oberlin high school students took.


The survey questions were about their occupation, marital status, use of credit card, and grade point average.  Based on the students’ answers, RealityU software created a scenario for each student.  


The scenario told the students their job, if they were married who they were married to, if they have children, how many children, their children’s age(s), student loans, credit score, how much they earn a month, if the pay or receive child support, and their annual salary and taxes. Using this information, the students then had to visit 12 different tables to buy things, like a car, house, groceries and clothes, and pay bills like utilities, internet/phone bill, health insurance and child care.


“My biggest surprise was spending so much money on food,” said freshman Hanna Quintana. “I learned to spend your money wisely and get the things you need first, rather than getting the stuff you want first.”


One booth was for the students who were going bankrupt.  There they could get some advice or maybe pick up another job. At the other booths, the students would make decision and pay their bills.  The students had to keep track of their expenditures.  The goals were to visit all the booths and to pay all the bills and stay within their budget.


“I really liked the experience,” said senior Aspen Gallentine. “It made me think a little more and how to work around all the bumps I might have in life.”


If the students were married, then they would combine their incomes and go to the booths together and make decisions.


The students were divided into two sessions.  The freshmen and sophomores went in the morning, and the juniors and seniors in the afternoon. It took 26 volunteers, which included teachers and staff members, business people, and retired teachers, to man the booths for each session.

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One booth was banking, where students could open a savings account, get a loan if they bought a house or a car, and pay student loans. At the child care booth, “parents” had to figure out a child care plan.  Most students were surprised at the cost of childcare.  RealityU also brought four baby simulators that cried. “Parents” had to walk around with the babies.  Patrick Sehl, the RealityU coordinator, would “fine” the parents if he caught them not taking proper care of the babies.


“Kids are expensive,” said Rowdy Farr, sophomore.


At the housing booth, students bought or rented a home or apartment – based on their income. Once they had their house or apartment, they could go to the utilities booth to pay for their gas, electric, water and trash removal,

At the transportation booth, students could buy a vehicle, anything from expensive vehicles to economical vehicles, or purchase a bus pass.  Some students who bought an expensive vehicle had to return to the table to trade it in for something that fit their budget.  


“I learned you shouldn’t go out and buy a Camaro if you can’t afford it,” said sophomore Gage Cressler.


Students also had to purchase health and car insurance. Their driving record was determined by a roll of dice.  At the supermarket booth, students bought groceries, and at the shopping center, they bought clothes for themselves and their children.


At the entertainment table, students determined how much money they could spend on entertainment, which included the cost of a babysitter if they had children, and at the communications table, they bought plans for cell phone, cable, and internet.


One of the last booths the students visited was “chance.”  Here they rolled dice to determine the outcome. Each number rolled had a corresponding outcome, such as a broken arm, speeding ticket, or a tax refund.


After the time was up, the students gathered in the gym to talk with Dr. Sehl.  They discussed what they learned and what they could do now to ensure a more successful future.


Dr. Sehl’s goals are to teach teens that their performance in school today can affect their future and to provide them with the opportunity to learn and practice personal finance skills.


“I was nervous about the activity because I wasn’t sure how it would be received,” said Mrs. Breth, “but the volunteers and Dr. Sehl made it go so smoothly.  The kids and the volunteers were having fun, and I think most students had their eyes opened.”


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Mrs. Breth said she also got some great feedback from the volunteers and the students. “One comment I heard over and over again from the students was ‘I had no idea kids could be so expensive,’” said Mrs. Breth.


“Life is a lot harder than I expected,” said senior Braden Beagley.


“I really enjoyed it, “ said junior Kaylen Ashley, “because it was a glimpse into what it’s like to be on my own. “


Senior Chelsea McCarty said, “It really showed me how expensive it is to grow up and live on my own.”


Junior Zac Corbett said, “It thought it was a great learning experience overall.  I learned things that apply in the real world.”


 “It gave some insight into how important things like credit score are,” said junior Faith Meitl.


 “It was a nice wake-up call to what life is going to be like and what our parents have been doing on a regular basis,” said junior Isaiah Mason.


Ninety-seven percent of the students said that DCHS should offer the experience again.

"We hopefully will bring RealityU back in a few years and continue to offer it to freshmen and sophomores," said Mrs. Breth.




Students get a glimpse of Reality

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