Yukon freshmen get a ‘reality check’

Sometimes students get to learn about life lessons through the game of “Life.” Sometimes, they simply get a reality check about what life has to offer them.

Tuesday, ninth-grade students at Yukon High School got a little of both as they went through “Reality Check.”

Reality Check is part of the school’s financial literacy program, something that is required by the state education department, to teach students what they might expect when they become adults.

It is an opportunity for them to find jobs, start a checking and savings account, get married, have children and find a home.

They also have to figure out how to pay their bills, purchase food and clothing, go to the doctor’s office and all the other things that go into being an adult, said Darrell Andrews, a leadership teacher at the high school.

Andrews has been part of the program since its inception 17 years ago.

“They go through the experience of being an adult, and see if they can live on what they are making,” Andrews said.

At the end of the event, the participants either receive a 100 Grand candy bar, or a Zero candy bar based on whether they completed the program with money left over or if they were in the red.

“They are able to see what their parents go through by taking a check and trying to make it last over a month with the different things they have to pay,” he said.

Andrews said the program is an awareness program.

“These kids think money grows on trees, and the house they live in is free. This gives them a look at what their parents go through,” Andrews said.

He did compare it to the game “Life.”

“It is a lot like the game of Life. They have to stop at a booth called ‘Chance,’ where they may win a $50 lottery, or they may get a $200 medical bill. There is even an SOS booth where they can go to get a second job if they don’t have enough money,” he said.

“They realize the most expensive 2018 car may not fit within their budget, and they have to trade that in and get something that is more feasible with what their financial status is, and what their financial abilities are,” Andrew said.

He said the biggest eye-opener for most participants is the cost of child care.

“They are totally in shock,” he said.

The program began in Yukon 17 years ago after then-Community Education Director Pam Shelton attended a national conference.

Shelton, who now is the Chamber of Commerce executive director, said the idea was introduced by Louise Summer, who was with the Mount Sterling, Kentucky, community education program.

“I stole the idea and brought it back to Yukon,” she said.

Since then, the program has flourished with thousands of students going through the program.

The district began offering it before the financial literacy class became mandatory.

“We had talked about a developing a financial literacy class, and we were trying to think about something that would be a fun thing and was different. We wanted to do the game of ‘Life,’ and this was a fun way to teach financial responsibility,” she said.

Shelton said the event has been adopted by other districts across the state, as well as in other states.

“It’s all over the place. … We had someone from Minnesota visit to see how we make it work. What makes it so successful is our volunteers from our community,” she said.

More than 150 community leaders volunteered their time to man different booths during this week’s event.

The program is a success, said Andrews.

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