Menomonee Falls — Menomonee Falls High School students had sticker shock last week.
The juniors experienced what it costs to be an adult Oct. 17 during Reality Check, a real-world simulation of life after high school.
Every student is given a different and random scenario.
One by one, the students go to stations set up throughout Davians Banquet and Conference Center. The stations were run by area businesses using real costs for labor or goods. Depending on their job and scenario — single, married or divorced, with or without children — the students bought a house, paid for childcare or a doctor's office copay. Each student also receives two fate cards. Some cards are good, like finding $25 in their pocket. Others aren't so good, such as getting a flat tire.
The paycheck blues
Falls junior Dominic Carini was a single construction worker in his scenario. His income was based off a database Falls business teachers compiled from real salaries and jobs in Waukesha County. Carini signed up for a 401(k), paid for car insurance, health insurance and gas — all of which slowly depleted his financial resources. His grocery bill for one month was $370. He said the cost of food surprised him the most.
Once his credit card debt was paid — the last stop for the day — he had $2 left in the bank. If he wanted to save for anything, Carini said, he would have had to pick up a second job. Next Level Staffing sets up a station to interview students and find them part-time jobs for those scenarios.
"It really puts the realization into it after everything you pay for," he said. "I was living paycheck to paycheck."
No matter the scenario, the lesson was the same. Reality Check gives students a real picture of what life could be like after high school, said Jill Hughes, business and information technology instructor, who also helps coordinate the event.
The price tags were the most surprising thing for students Jake Stauffacher and Alex Charlier. That, Hughes said, is the point.
Since Reality Check is offered to juniors, they can also decide if they need to take a personal finance course their senior year that teaches students to better manage their money.
"As adults, I don't think we share enough about what we are spending with our kids. I also feel they don't quite have a grasp of what their parents are paying on a monthly basis," Hughes said. "They have no idea, and if they can learn here and make some mistakes here, they could register and take the personal financing class we offer seniors."
Four high school business teachers started Reality Check in 2006.
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