JMS students get a ‘Reality Check’

Published 11:53 am Thursday, March 22, 2018


Jemison Middle School students experienced a Reality Check presented by Alabama 4-H of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) on March 21 in the school gymnasium.

More than 180 eighth grade students participated.

“They get a fake life. They get an occupation, a salary, a family. Everybody has a dog or cat,” Gay West of ACES said. “And then they have to visit the different areas and spend their money on what we all have to spend money on.”

The goal?

“Survive the month,” Gail Mims, who teaches Teen Connections at JMS and organized the Extension’s visit, said.

Students were given 40 minutes to manage one month’s salary (minus taxes), visiting stations for required expenses, such as banking, transportation, a residence, insurance, groceries, day care, donations and more.

Some stations threw curve balls — such as speeding tickets. This took care of an “expect the unexpected” requirement.

“They have ‘That’s Life,’ which they draw two tickets [for] two different things. So, they might win $1,000, but they might have a DUI,” West said.

Eighth grader Maverick Gentry was among the lucky ones … but not at first.

“When I bought day care and insurance for my house and life insurance and (had) kids, I only had $40 left,” he said. “But ‘That’s Life’ got me $1,000 from my Uncle Sam.”

He said this was a big moment.

Making financial decisions can be tricky.

“There’s a real car salesman really trying to sell them some cars down there,” Mims said, explaining that many students chose BMWs before having to trade them in later in the exercise.

Jimmie Hardee, giggling from his transportation station, said, “This is so much fun!”

Hardee, who was one of the many volunteers manning the booths, said he believed the program was teaching the students important lessons about finance, and then shared some memorable quotes from students.

“Their comments have been priceless,” Mims said. “I mean, they really are learning some life lessons here,” Mims laughed.

“One child said, ‘I’m never asking my mother and daddy for another thing,’” West said, “because they see how much it costs and why sometimes parents have to say, ‘No, I don’t have it; I can’t afford that right now.’”

Eighth grader Kaleigh Vanderslice said she didn’t mind the life she was assigned.

“I don’t have any kids, and I’m not married,” she said. “I have a dog — a golden retriever. I like dogs, so I’m OK with that.”

According to students’ comments, the greatest lesson learned was the importance of saving money.

“Save more money,” Maverick said. “Spend wisely.”

Kaleigh agreed.

“Before you go and spend money on things you don’t need, you should go and get the big things out of the way,” Kaleigh said.

The program was a success.

“Just like it says, it’s a reality check for the students,” Mims said.