Reality Check at high school today

Published 6:02 am Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Today, Wed.,, Oct. 28, Andalusia High School students will gain valuable insight about the financial realities of the American dream.

Students in Georgianna Baldwin’s career preparedness course are participating in the “Reality Check,” a program available for middle-school through college-age students throughout the state, sponsored by Alabama Cooperative Extension Services. The local program is being supported by many volunteers within the community, and a warm “thank you” goes out to LBW, Massey Automotive, Southeast Gas, Pink Peppers, RFBC, SIB, Chamber of Commerce, Winn Dixie and the Army National Guard for all their support to make this a success for the students. Also, a special thanks goes to the officers of DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America).

The “Reality Check” program allows each ninth-grader to experience life as if he or she is an adult, responsible for all of life’s many expenses. Before participating in the “Realville” simulation exercises, each student is assigned a career and given a monthly salary. They also are assigned varying family scenarios in which they may or may not have a working spouse or be in need of childcare.

Students’ first order of business after receiving their “life assig-nm-ents” is to visit 14 bo-oths, set up to resemble shop windows, banks, the friendly car salesmen, and a realty company, among many others. Before students can begin spending their monthly paycheck, they quickly realize that Uncle Sam must first deduct his share.

Many students are well on their way to spending over half of their monthly funds within the first few minutes of the event; they are quick to visit the car lot for the latest model SUV and the realtor to purchase a two-story house, but they soon realize that with the added costs of insurance, groceries, and childcare, an extravagant lifestyle can not be supported by low-paying occupations. Students then quickly conclude that it was time to look for a second job.  As a result, some even choose to visit the education booth to earn a second degree, after which they could qualify for a higher-earning career.

Although students gained practical knowledge about the current costs of living, they also walk away from the event with something greater: motivation, both to stay in school and to set ambitious career goals.

Routinely, participating students share how excited they are to pursue careers that match their interests and offer financial stability. An added benefit is gaining appreciation for their parents, perhaps seeing for the first time the sacrifices that have been made for them.

Though this event is relevant to students of all grade levels, Georgianna Baldwin feels it best serves this particular group and is most beneficial at this point in the early stages of a high-school career.

“This program, like our career preparedness course, is perfect for these ninth-graders because, not in-spite of, their youth,” she said. “As they begin their high-school careers, this is the time to set goals, both academically and with respect to their future careers. The ‘Reality Check’ has given my students a reason to start high school on a strong note; By demonstrating the value of an education, this program has provided an incentive to continue to do well in school from the very beginning, even as ninth-graders, so that they can ultimately accomplish their career and lifestyle goals later in life.”

Bulldog Bytes is contributed each week by teachers at Andalusia High School. This week’s column was penned by Georgianna Baldwin, AHS career prep teacher, and Sara Catherine Patrick, English teacher.