When Columbia Middle School eighth-grader Emily Ritter arrived at class Wednesday morning, she became a 28-year-old business owner making $35,000 a year with three kids.
Suddenly she was responsible for balancing a budget around childcare and groceries. Eventually she had to pick up a second job and ended up using all of her savings. To top it all off, the car accident she got in set her back $100.
“It taught me to watch what I spend,” Emily said of the Reality Store event sponsored by the Purdue Club of Cass County at Columbia Middle School. She was one of many eighth-graders who participated in the simulation by choosing a career and receiving a salary to divide among a month’s worth of various needs, wants and unexpected events to gain more knowledge and respect for adulthood.
Students started out in an orientation session, where they huddled over clipboards and calculators as Barrie McClain, a member of the Purdue Club of Cass County, taught them how to balance a checkbook register.
“We’re giving the students an introduction to the kinds of things they’re going to have to face when they’re responsible for their own family,” McClain said.
After orientation, the eighth-graders headed into a gymnasium, where they filed through tables to determine their marital status, draw how many kids they’d have, pay their taxes and purchase the needs and wants that make up adult life.
Students went through the simulation to pay their student loans, purchase childcare services and buy groceries, insurance, clothing, utilities, housing, medical and dental care and vehicles. At each stop they made, a local representative of the table’s corresponding industry or a Purdue Club of Cass County member was there to guide them as they made their subtractions on their checkbook register.