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Real world lessons can be taught

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By Cathy Toole

The real world can be tough without a good paying job.  That is what students from Henry County and Eminence experienced on Dec. 9 at the Reality Store.  This eye-opening opportunity has been available to thousands of Henry County youth for more than 14 years.  The concept of the activity is to allow students to pretend they are twenty-five years of age and to think about where they would like to be in their life.  Then they are given their current GPAs and a list of careers they may choose a job from, the catch is that they may only have jobs that are within their GPA’s range.  You may not be a college graduate unless you have a 2.0 and you will not receive a diploma if you do not meet the state requirement.  Once the careers have been chosen the students draw from a hat to see how many children they will have to support for the purpose of the game.  They might have no children and the maximum is three.

To keep the game simple the youth are trying to make it on one salary.  Many complain that they plan to marry and have a spouse that will help increase the income level.  The statistics have proven that 80 percent of us at some time in our lives will be our sole supporter due to illness, separation, divorce or death.  To keep the game simple and moving faster for the participants we tell the youth they may be married, but they still have to make it on one income.

Volunteers from across the county give of their time for the day to make the event possible by working at 19 different booths such as:  housing, transportation, groceries, child care and insurance to name a few.  While the volunteers offer choices they let the students decide what they would like to purchase.  To win the game they must pay a month of expenses and try to break even without going into debt.

The number one reaction is that kids are expensive and take all of their money.  The second is that many cannot afford the items they now enjoy, such as cell phones and expensive clothing brands. They all got a taste of how Uncle Sam takes a huge chunk of their paycheck.

Times are tough in the real world if you aren’t prepared, so maybe these students will begin to see that good grades and higher education does pay in the long run.

A special thank you to all of the wonderful volunteers for their support of this program.