Northeast Middle School student Audrianna Green (center) realizes just how expensive housing is while other students scramble to find affordable apartments.
Lauderdale County School District (LCSD) Cyber Foundations II teachers promoted financial literacy to eighth grade students through a districtwide event this fall.
Held in November, the 2019 Reality Fair provided students with a simulation on balancing spending for necessities versus wants and other luxury items. Each student was randomly assigned a job and an average, career-specific salary. Local businesses helped students spend their income on needs — housing, groceries, transportation and insurance, for example — and non-necessities including pets, cell phones and gym memberships. Students also spun the Wheel of Reality to account for unexpected windfalls — an inheritance, for example — or expenses such as repairing or replacing a flat tire. Students kept records of their balances after each expenditure and visited credit counselors to find solutions to financial dilemmas including loans and second jobs.
First sponsored at Northeast Middle School (NEMS) by MUNA Federal Credit Union under the leadership of its president, Bo Pittman, and implemented by NEMS counselor Terisa Pittman and Cyber Foundations II teacher Sheri Thornton, this year’s fair included Clarkdale Middle School, Southeast Middle School and West Lauderdale Middle School. Debbie Smith (Meridian Mutual Credit Union), Rebecca Cooper (First Mississippi Federal Credit Union) and Darlene Wilkerson (Mississippi Air National Guard Federal Credit Union) also helped facilitate this experience for the students of Lauderdale County.
The Reality Fair included a tour of the Meridian Community College (MCC) Workforce Development Center. There, students saw technical education classrooms where MCC students learn skills necessary for construction-related fields such as carpentry, welding and electrical installation. MCC instructors explained the importance of a good work ethic and the importance of skills development.
The LCSD program began with Cyber Foundations teachers at all four LCSD middle schools helping students with goal setting, career exploration and educational planning, with an emphasis on financial literacy. Teachers provided lessons on needs versus wants, salary, deductions and budgets. Lesson plans included speakers from local businesses, online financial literacy programs and teacher-created activities to help students learn how to handle personal finances. These lessons culminated in the LCSD Reality Fair, where students used what learned about income and expenses.
The Reality Fair and the preparatory lessons provided students an eye-opening look into the real world. When students returned to school, they shared their thoughts with teachers and expressed a deeper appreciation for their parents.
“The Reality Fair was a fun way to help students develop financial literacy skills,” said NEMS Future Business Leaders of America President Itzel Gomez-Moreno.