Reality U gives students glimpse of adulthood
By RACHAEL GRAY
As a 26-year-old researcher, Serenia Rios thinks she makes good money. She pulls in about $77,988 per year. She has a home and drives a truck.
But she pays child support.
"I guess I'm a bad mom," Rios said, laughing.
Rios is actually a 15-year-old freshman at Garden City High School who participated in Reality U, a Communities in Schools program that teaches financial literacy.
Students who took part in Reality U were provided an occupation based on their educational plans after high school, their current grade-point average and their desired career field. They filled out a lifestyle survey prior to the event, providing details about the life they plan to have as a 26-year-old.
Before entering Reality U, students received their lifestyle survey back along with their adult scenario — complete with marital status, number of children, occupation and net monthly income. Their net monthly income was the equivalent of the average monthly salary in the selected occupation at the age of 26.
Ashley Ferguson, Reality U Coordinator from Lawrence, helped with the event along with Sharon Quint, Communities in Schools site coordinator.
Ferguson said students were given credit scores based on their GPAs.
"It's basically taking a look at their 26-year-old lifestyles and how life may be," she said.
Students went to 14 different booths to set up budgets and finances including utilities, vehicle purchasing, housing, child care, child support and insurance. They had a chance to save money, give to charity and learned about unexpected life events.
"It gives them the opportunity to learn about life and budget. They have the opportunity to go back to a booth, if needed. Say, a student bought a (Ford) F-150 truck and has trouble feeding his kids, he can go back and get a vehicle with a lower payment," Ferguson said.
To represent the family patterns of today, some students are married, some divorced, some are custodial parents and some are non-custodial parents, Quint said.
"The simulation throws in some realistic details of life," Ferguson said.
It gives the students insight into real life and how decisions can affect them for the rest of their lives, she said.
"This gives the opportunity for students to know what their parents have to go through for them. They also learn things such as how much children cost when it comes to food and groceries and shopping," she said.
Rios said she learned from the simulation.
"I guess it helps your learning for what it's going to be like when you get older — like what to do and what not to do," she said.
Communities in Schools is an organization dedicated to helping students say in school and achieve in life.
The organization has a track record of improving student outcomes in academic achievement and behavioral patterns. Independent research demonstrates that Communities in Schools is one of only a few organizations proven to keep students in school, and the only one to document that it increases graduation rates.
Every year, 1.2 million students drop out of school. That means every nine seconds a student in America loses his or her path for a better future, according to the organization.
The average income of a college graduate is $54,000, and the average earned income of a high school dropout is $17,000.
Last year, a $30,000 donation from AT&T, along with a $20,000 donation from the Finnup Foundation, enabled Communities in Schools to start a program in Garden City. Quint, the site coordinator at GCHS, helps to serve as a liaison between schools and businesses, faith groups and nonprofit agencies in the community to provide a wide range of services, including mentoring, tutoring, health care, summer and after-school programs, family counseling and vocational education.