Every spring, seventh-graders take part in the Reality Store, which is meant to give them an idea of what it’s like to have a job and use that income to take care of their families and keep up their houses. The Reality Store is usually held earlier in the year, but a snow day in March caused the event to be delayed until after the school’s spring testing window. Janeen Tramble, the county’s 4-H agent, said that the children prepare for the event in class a couple of days in advance by learning a bit about home economics and by taking an interest survey to determine their choice of career. Before they head to the gym for the event, they also find out whether or not they are married and how many children they will have for the project.
“Their families are chosen by the luck of the draw,” Tramble said.
Once the students enter the gym, they are greeted by volunteers offering to sell them things at a multitude of booths: groceries, childcare, health insurance, church charities, entertainment, housing and lots more. The first thing the kids have to do once they arrive, though, is to visit “Uncle Sam” and pay their taxes. They also have to visit the “chance booth,” which gives them a situation for which they were not prepared. Sometimes it’s good fortune, but it’s usually undesirable, such as a medical emergency. As the kids walked through last Thursday, many of them were so overwhelmed with their responsibilities that they were acquiring second, and sometimes third, jobs.
“That’s pretty realistic,” Tramble said. “It can sometimes takes more than one job to make ends meet.”
Middle school teacher Patti Purkes, who was in charge of organizing the Reality Store’s school activities, said that the kids were quickly learning that they needed to cut back on buying brand name clothes and foods. She said the entertainment booth was doing poorly, as was the communications (i.e. telephone-related) booth. She said that the cost of goods and the kids’ income were supposed to reflect the state of the current economy, meaning that the costs were rising while the salaries were stagnant.
Purkes said that the students always enjoy the event and that it’s a great opportunity for them to have conversations about finances. She said that some had done quite well and other didn’t seem to “know the value of a dollar.” Still, all of them seemed to be learning something.
“When it’s over, they have a better understanding when their parents say they don’t have money to buy things,” she said.
As Purkes said this, Kaitlyn Williamson walked by and told her what a difficult time she was having.
“I’m not doing so good,” she said. “I’m only a kid!”
Welcome to the real world,” Purkes said laughing.
For the rest if this story, read this week's Cadiz Record.