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AHS students learn about real world money

Freshman students at Andalusia High School participated in an activity similar to the “Game of Life” Friday.

For most high school students, budgeting is not one of the lessons they have learned, but the “Reality Check” program is used to teach the students what life would be like after high school.

“With the economic issues we have, we feel it’s important that the students have a good foundation on financial literacy,” Gloria Marks, who sponsors the program and is a regional extension agent for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, said. “Reality Check gives students a good glimpse into their future, the occupations they may have, salaries they will receive in those occupations and the importance of getting an education.”

The program is a financial simulation of life after school. Each student was randomly assigned an occupation, level of education required and a family scenario: married, single, with or without children.

The students were then required to visit each station with volunteers representing different aspects of the adulthood including real estate, insurance, transportation and utilities.

Sara Catherine Patrick, career tech teacher at AHS, worked with Marks to sponsor the program for the students. She was available for students to discuss changes in their life plans.

“The highlight of my day was seeing the students realize that the Cadillac Escalade wasn’t important, and they would go back and trade it in for something more economical,” Katie O’Neal, a volunteer who teaches history and sociology at LBWCC, said.

Many students, like Shakayla Samuel, said they originally purchased the Escalade, but realized that insurance and groceries were more important and traded the car for something cheaper.

“I couldn’t pay for my water, cable and utilities so I ended up having to get a second job,” Samuel said. “I also had to pay for childcare for my two children.”

The task of budgeting was difficult for some students, and they were met with the realization of what parents are required to accomplish to provide for their family.

Riley Shaffer said he appreciates what his parents have to do a little more.

“I think a lot of people don’t understand what our parents have to go through,” Shaffer said. “Not only do they have to figure out how to use the money, they have to work for it. I think that kids take their parents for granted.”

Shaffer’s “reality” was the occupation of childcare worker and parent of one child. By choosing the cheapest means of caring for his family, he was left with $193 at the end of his monthly salary.

Shaffer had a hypothetical two bedroom house and a Nissan Altima, both of which he said served his requirements and were the most affordable.

“I learned that money doesn’t stretch as far as many people think,” he said. “I think a lot of people abuse money and use it for things they don’t need, and they wonder why it’s all gone so quickly.”

Marks said she wanted the students to understand the importance of planning and setting goals for the future.

“I believe strongly in planning and setting goals for their future,” Marks said.

She said it is very important to receive an education, but sometimes plans change and students need to know how to handle unintended deviations.

“That’s life” cards were handed out randomly to sometimes throw kinks into the students’ plans.

Shaffer ended up with a few cards that caused his monthly salary to dwindle to less than $100, but later received a card with earnings from the stock market.

“I found out it’s going to be very difficult to make that money last,” he said.

Principal Dr. Daniel Shakespeare and Andalusia City Schools Superintendent Ted Watson were present during the event. Watson said the program is important.

“It’s great to get kids at a young age thinking about what they’re going to do later on in their life,” he said.