ST. GEORGE — Middle-schoolers might not be the best behaved – in fairness, they’re often rowdy and full of spirit – but, at least they’re only a couple years away from conceivably contributing to the household cash flow, right? One age-old remedy for juvenile behavior is a reality check.
For the past month, local middle schools have been involved in their own form of a reality check. Led by the Southern Utah branch of Utah Business Women, volunteers have traveled around to local middle schools to show ninth-graders what it’s really like to survive as an adult on a modern paycheck. Calling this event the “Reality Store,” volunteers from the UBW and teachers at each school assisted students in a role play, aimed at teaching students how to budget.
The last of these middle schools to get the reality check was Desert Hills Middle School in St. George. The Reality Store arrived at Desert Hills Thursday morning and stayed for the entire school day. All ninth-graders were assigned a monthly income, a modern family – some married, some divorced, some single – and most importantly, a large stack of bills.
Students gasped when they visited each station to find out how much housing, transportation, insurance, groceries, child care and many other expenses cost per month. The least favorite station seemed to be the “finger of fate,” where unexpected life misfortunes occurred. Among the list of misfortunes were unexpected hospital bills, car failure, and unforeseen housing maintenance.
If the students ran into a legal issue – like divorce – the legal station taught the students legitimate costs of getting a lawyer or mediator. Some of the students were confronted with the possibility of divorce. However, Chanel Benson, one of the planners from the UBW said, most of them chose to try to work out their marital issues.
“When they realize how much it costs to get a divorce,” Benson said, “they’d rather choose the counseling option.”
Personal finance wasn’t all doom and gloom at the Reality Store, their main focus was to show students how to succeed financially as well as showing students the reality of life as an adult.
Reality Store volunteers taught students what they need to do to live whatever sort of lifestyle they want. They also taught students how much schooling they would need and what sorts of jobs would suffice to fit their goals in life. Also, if students had extra money, there were stations at the Reality Store teaching how to invest, and even how to donate to charities.
The Southern Utah branch of the Utah Business Women has been doing this middle school tour for the last three years. Before this installment, Donna Howell was in charge of the project, but this year Chanel Benson, a Health Insurance Agent from Southern Utah Insurance, was nominated to plan and execute the tour.
The Southern Utah branch of Utah Business Women have a regular luncheon at the Best Western Abby Inn where they support each other while discussing a variety of charity and volunteer projects like the Reality Store that they are involved in.
“The whole point of this is so (students) understand the cost of living, because – a lot of people don’t. By the time they go home, they’re thankful to their parents – they understand why their parents say no,” Benson said.
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