PRESTONSBURG- The 4-H Reality Store is a program supported by the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Office. Agriculture Agent Heather Nelson partnered with the Floyd County School System to bring a dose of reality to eighth grade students.
The Reality Store enables students to take a look at what life may actually be like depending on their chosen profession. Students take a Career Cruising Inventory Plan that allows them to explore various interest. Based on the interest inventory each student is given a career with a salary. Students pretend they are 25 years old and the sole support of their household. Prior to coming to the Reality Store, students answer questions such as: How many children will you have, What kind of vehicle will have, Do you plan to rent or own, How much money you hope to save each month, and what they think will be the amount they spend on groceries each month.
“Students often think they are going to be an actress, actor or sports sensation,” said 4-H Agent Heather Nelson. “I hope that happens for them. I tell them to think of a back-up plan, in case that doesn’t work out. Students often don’t think about things like childcare or groceries. Reality Store allows them a more accurate look at their future,” .
Students traveled to the Jenny Wiley Convention Center where several booths were set up to simulate real life. Upon arriving at the Reality Store, Uncle Sam has his hand out ready and wanting his tax money. After paying Uncle Sam, student proceed to the bank to set up a checking account, a savings account is optional. Students then proceed through the various booths. The only stipulation is students must visit every booth in any order. Reality Booths include: food, insurance, entertainment, transportation, utilities, child care, housing, clothing, medical/dental, property taxes, communications, health and grooming, furniture, contributions, s.o.s, supplemental income and chance.
“I looked forward to coming the Reality Store. When you think about your life, you don’t think about paying utilities, groceries, or babysitters,” said John M. Stumbo student Alyssa Newsome. “My occupation was a nurse and my salary was $26,356 a year, which I thought was good. I ended up with two children, paid $556 monthly mortgage payment and by the time I paid for childcare and utilities I was overdrawn in my bank account $123. I had to go to the S.O.S booth for help and they gave me food stamps. No one wants to live on food stamps. I learned that life is not easy and if I am going to make a decent life I have to study and work hard.”
The premise of the Reality Store program is to allow students to experience the basic responsibilities of an adult who has completed school and are independent with no financial support from family or friends. Students between the ages of 14 and 20 begin to make critical decision that will impact the course of their life. Today’s high school students are taking college courses as part of their electives in high school. The educational path, career options, and personal matters shape them into young adults. Having knowledge is power. Students should make these critical decisions with the knowledge and a sophisticated attitude about the realities of and options for their futures.
The goal of the program is to examine the attitudes and expectations they have about their futures. To motivate students to stay in school, stay away from drugs and avoid teenage pregnancy.
“For every three students entering college, only one will graduate within five years,” according to a study for student excellence.
“Now when students enter high school, they need to have some idea of an occupation they are interested in. The Reality Store for some students lets them know they need to study harder and get good grades. Having this experience as eighth grade students, they still have time to change and improve their study habits,” said Janie Watts, John M. Stumbo Assistant Principal.
At the conclusion of the Reality Store experience, students must answer questions about what happens in the real world. What relationship do you see in your grades in school now and your future salary? After the Reality Store, how will you plan for the unexpected? These are some of the tough questions the students must ask themselves after this experience.
The Reality Store is a program from the Floyd County Extension. The following volunteers gave their time and effort to make the Reality Store a success: Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Floyd County School’s Resource Centers and Youth Service Centers, First Commonwealth Bank, Board of Education, 4-H Teen Council, Floyd County Conservation and workers from the Floyd County Extension Office.
Andrea Saddler is a reporter for the Floyd County Times. She can be reached at (606)794-0290.