‘Reality Town’ teaches middle school students about financial responsibility
by Marva Lewis
special to The Times-Independent
Feb 23, 2012 | 1164 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Moab Mayor Dave Sakrison poses with the dress-up contest winners at the middle school “Reality Town” event. From left, Joseph McFarland (fighter pilot), Seth Holyoak (nuclear physicist), Sakrison, Tiana Shumway (fashion designer), and Rhiannon Bohannon (surgeon). Courtesy photo
Moab Mayor Dave Sakrison poses with the dress-up contest winners at the middle school “Reality Town” event. From left, Joseph McFarland (fighter pilot), Seth Holyoak (nuclear physicist), Sakrison, Tiana Shumway (fashion designer), and Rhiannon Bohannon (surgeon). Courtesy photo
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While most adults realize the difficulties of running a household on a set income with ever-increasing consumer prices, students at Grand County Middle School experienced some of those same challenges during an event on Feb. 10.

Reality Town, an annual event at the middle school, started in 2004. Each year, more than 200 students and 60-plus community volunteers participate in this real-life financial simulation.

Students choose an occupation that corresponds to their current academic performance in school. The better a student’s grade point average (GPA), the more choices that student has in selecting a good-paying job.

“I have three children, so I needed three jobs,” GCMS eighth grader Cassandra Espinoza, whose job was as a cosmetologist/hairstylist, said during the event.

After selecting an occupation, students are randomly assigned family scenarios that may include having one to three children.

“Reality Town is an introduction to the realities of financial literacy. It’s also a great opportunity for our students to meet and bond with members of the community,” said GCMS Principal Melinda Snow.

Even students with high paying occupations found that money doesn’t go as far as they thought. Rhiannon Bohannon, who took on the role of a surgeon making $144,000 annually, was strapped for cash after paying taxes and student loans.

“I was surprised by how much was taken out each month in taxes,” Bohannon said. “I had to pay $1,611 a month in student loans, too.”

The Eastern Utah Community Credit Union sponsored and paid for the event after it appeared that Reality Town would be canceled due to budget constraints.

“One student showed me that he had enough money left over to buy a second car,” said bank manager Danielle Hansen. “He chose a Toyota Prius for his wife. I told him he did something nice for his wife as well as for the environment.”

Cade Gill, a seventh grader and animal lover, had enough money left over from his wages as a CEO to splurge. “I did pretty well. I had a good job and after paying my bills, I had $900 left,” he said. “Out of that, I bought eight dogs and two horses. I still had $114 so I bought four more dogs.”

Some students took their occupations quite seriously. Tia Shumway, a seventh grader and winner of the costume contest, was a fashion designer. In addition to dressing the part, she wrote fashion tips on post-its and handed them out to fellow students.

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