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Students experience reality

DCHS Journalism

Students from Oberlin and Atwood got a glimpse of reality last week through an interactive program called Reality U.  The program teaches students about personal finance in a fun and engaging way.

Students were asked to imagine their life as a 26-year old and complete an on-line lifestyle survey, which included questions about their occupation, marital status, use of credit cards, and their current grade point average.


This information was then entered into a software program that linked their answers to a unique scenario that was individualized for each student. These scenarios were distributed to them the day of the event.

Each scenario included the student’s monthly income, credit card debt, student loan information, as well as marital and family status. The students then had to transfer this information into their student passport and then make purchases at the various booths that represented services and/or products that adults typically must purchase or consider each month.


“I think it was a good experience to see what life could be at 26 and to see how money management is important,” said sophomore Brynna Addleman.


The students were divided into two sessions.  Oberlin freshmen and sophomores went through the activity first and then students from Rawlins County took a turn.


“The program is rather expensive,” said principal Brenda Breth, “so we invited students from Atwood to come over.  This way we could split the cost.”


It took over 20 volunteers from the community to run the booths for each session.


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. 


“It was pretty good and interesting to see how much things actually cost and to get a look at life when we are older,” said Breckin Sauvage.


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. 


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.


“Kids are expensive,” said freshman Olivia Williby.


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.


“Reality U showed how tough life could be and how much effort kids are,” said sophomore Tod Mastin.


“I learned how expensive things can be and why it is important to use money carefully,” said freshman Josh Juenemann.


After the time was up, the students gathered in the gym to talk with Dr. Patrick Sehl, Reality U director. 


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.


According to Dr. Sehl, this event actively engages the students to help them understand the importance of education to their financial future. It also engages the community in supporting student learning and developing their understanding of the world of work.


Oberlin school counselor Lacey Tally organized the event.  This was the second time that Reality U has been in Oberlin.  This year’s juniors and seniors experienced the program two years ago when they were freshmen and sophomores.



“I thought Reality U was a great experience for our freshmen and sophomores,” said Mrs. Tally. “I think they were surprised to find out exactly how much things cost, especially childcare and children in general.  I love how Reality U can show students that there is an important connection between what they are doing now in school and their financial future.”


Rawlins County counselor Mardi Lohoefener said, “A lot of my students mentioned how expensive children were. I think that was very eye-opening. All high school kids at some point need this exposure.”


“I liked it,” said sophomore Jacie Fortin. “It gave me a good idea of how expensive bills really are and how I need to be smart on how I spend money.”


“It was really fun, and really eye opening,” said freshman Savannah Morris.


“It was fun, and helps us see how our choices will affect us in the future,” said sophomore Madison Padilla.


“We learned a lot about what are parents have to go through,” said sophomore Bryce Peter.


“It’s very hard adulting,” said freshman Eli McCluskey.


“I would love to offer Reality U to our students again. I think there is a lot of importance in providing our students opportunities in which they can practice real life skills,” said Mrs. Tally. “Reality U taught our students about finances and budgeting, but it also showed them how stressful it can be to be an adult that is responsible for making these financial decisions.  I think this opened our students’ eyes and gave them a different perspective on what their parents go through on a monthly basis. In return, I think they are more appreciative of what their parents provide for them.”



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