Knox Middle Students Get a Taste of Reality

Buy a house or rent an apartment? Buy health insurance or gas for a truck?

These might not seem like issues for a typical middle school student, but Knox County Middle School students studied these issues and more as they participated in The World of Reality Store, set up by Tonya Allen, academic specialist through GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs).

During the three-day event, students rotated through booths that focused on the everyday expenses associated with being an adult. The students are assigned a career, marital status, education level, and the number of children in their family. From there, students make decisions based on their family size and income level. For many, the decisions are difficult because they do not have quite enough money to make ends meet.

“Students quickly realize that a college degree has much more earning power than a high school education,” said Allen. “Students who drew jobs that required a college degree have more money to spend on the extra items, such as vacations, iPhones, and nicer clothes.”

Allen said one of the biggest shocks to students is the cost of child care, which can be quite expensive for multiple children.

“They begin to realize the tremendous responsibility that comes with being a parent. I hope they take that lesson to heart and make sure they finish high school and college before starting a family, if possible,” Allen said. “This activity also gives them a new appreciation for their parents and the work they do to provide for their family.”

The goal of the event is to give students a taste of reality, so they can make wise choices beginning now, Allen said.

Activities, such as the World of Reality Store, are funded through Berea College’s GEAR UP grant from the U.S. Department of Education (2011-2018) totaling $149,408,000 (50 percent federal funds and 50 percent non-federal funds).