Knox Central students make sense of dollars and cents

“Boy, i’m done! I only have 169 dollars left…”

Charles Eversole, a student at Knox Central, isn’t alone in his observation of balancing wants, needs, and reality.  Students recently got a taste of adult life as they were forced with challenges such as providing food for their family while making the monthly house and car payments.

A “Reality Store” was held at the school on October 11 and as students quickly learned, the decisions that they make while in high school can make a substantial impact on their future.

“The reality store is an excellent way for our students to experience real life It allows our students a safe way to see how far a dollar will go when they have bills, and children of their own,” said Jeff Frost, principal at the school.

Frost observed several lessons that his students were learning while visiting booths that represented the many choices students will have to make in life and opportunities that they might want to explore.   Although the experience was a simulation of real life, students like Kendall Hampton agree that “it was real.”

“Many of our students have a new appreciation for their parents too,” said Frost, as students started wondering how their own parents manage to provide for their family.  Frost also shared that the students started making the connection between the grades they make in high school, the job they will have after graduation, and the salary that may or may not support the lifestyle that they wish to live as adults.

Community business owners and volunteers helped staff the tables at the event, many representing the business or industry that they actually work for.  Those in attendance provided “life tips” as students struggled to make decisions and balance their budgets.

“The reality store also connects our students with many community businesses and leaders. Without them, this day would not be possible,” said Frost.

Below, Knox Central Extension Agent Renata Farmer shared information about the event: student Brandi Mills provided this report explaining the logistics of the event and the lessons learned:

Ask any graduate of high school what they wish had been taught more before they went into the “big bad world” and they are likely to say the same thing: “I wish they had taught us more about the cost of living.” This seems to catch a lot of recent grads by surprise as they learn how hard it is to live on their own. The goal of the Reality Fair that freshmen at Knox Central High School attended on Tuesday, October 11 was to give the students a try-it-before-you-buy-it version of these everyday expenses, which they will one day be expected to pay.

One of the most interesting concepts of the fair was the fact that careers were chosen for students based on their grades, behavior, attendance, and career pathway. Renata Farmer stated, “[The] program is on workforce preparation and it brings together the simulation that grades, behavior and attendance will affect a persons out come as far as the amount of money they’ll make.” Essentially, the assignment of careers was to serve as a way to show students how what they do in high school can really effect their lives in the future.

 The money they got in “salary” from their assigned career was to be used to pay for “everyday expenses”. Farmer explained, “They are given a monthly amount of money that they have to spend at the sixteen different booths like transportation, housing and utilities; just random everyday things you can think of.” In doing this, students got to see just how expensive things were, and in turn had to do a bit of budgeting. It was clear that the students were a little tense, even if it was all pretend, it added a bit of realism to what the future is going to hold. Farmer concluded, “As far as student response, I think everyone is getting an idea of how real life works, how each one of the things costs a lot of money and how each one affects the other.”

Photos from the event are available in the KCPS Photo Gallery:

Knox Central Reality Fair