More than 600 Yukon High School freshmen got a reality check on Tuesday.
They got an opportunity to find out about getting a job, paying for car insurance, buying groceries, paying rent and utilities. All the things that go into being an adult.
And it all happened while they were in school.
During Reality Check, dozens of volunteers man booths with tags above them that say things like “Rent,” “Groceries,” “haircuts,” and “transportation.”
They also find out if they are married, single, have children or pets.
The idea is for students to get a lesson about finances.
This is the 18th year that the Yukon School District has hosted the event. It focuses on students in the ninth grade.
Community Education Director D’Lynne Koontz said the program is part of the district’s financial literacy education program, which is required by the state Department of Education.
The district initially used a program called Keystone, which incorporated a lot of different elements. It was geared to freshmen.
Koontz said the district never changed the age group when it introduced Reality Check in 2002.
The program was brought to Yukon by then-Community Education Director Pam Shelton, who attended a conference where another school had developed the program.
Shelton has previously said she thought it might be a good fit for Yukon.
Koontz agrees, and says it works well.
She called it the game of “Life” on steroids.
When it first began, Koontz said about 250 students went through it. Tuesday, about 650 students attended one of three two-hour sessions.
Reality Check incorporates all 11 aspects that are required by the state education department.
There are more than a dozen booths that entail all aspects of adulthood, and the students must visit each one.
Koontz said many of the students are surprised to find out how much it costs for a cell phone bill or to pay for their car insurance.
“They take things for granted. One of the biggest a-ha moments is the cost of child care and groceries,” she said.
There have been changes to the program throughout the years. For example, there are fewer professional jobs and more trades included.
She said not every student can be a professional athlete or musician, which is what most would choose to do if that were an option.
Also, the housing costs and salaries are Yukon-based.
As the students go through the booths, they find out the costs versus what their salaries are. If they have too many expenses, they have options that include reducing their costs by selling things like expensive cars, or by getting a second job at the SOS booth.
Koontz said this year’s students were buying fewer expensive vehicles and homes.
“Maybe they are understanding more,” she said. “They were a lot more conservative.”
Redlands Community College uses a similar program adapted from Yukon’s Reality Check during its summer camps. In addition, at least one school in Kansas is using a commercial-based version of the program.
Koontz said Reality Check does just what its name implies.
“It is a game right now,” she said.