Wise County VA students experience “reality check” during financial simulation

Eighth grade students participate in Reality Store by Wise County 4-H and United Way of Southwest Virginia



Wise, VA (April 5, 2017) – On Tuesday, April 4, over one hundred eighth graders in Wise County participated in a Reality Store, a financial simulation to teach students about personal accounting, financial responsibility and life choices. The activity is a partnership between United Way of Southwest Virginia and Wise County 4-H, and was hosted in the banquet hall on the campus of UVA Wise.

One of the eighth grade students, Dallas Meade, approached the “S.O.S.” table to obtain a second job stating, “I’m looking for something on the weekends, so I can keep my original job and still spend time with my wife.”

As a part of the simulation, students were assigned a job and a salary commensurate with that job. The students were told information about their life status, including whether or not they were married or single, and whether or not they had children. The students then made purchases of essential life items at various stations, including taxes, utilities, real estate, groceries, clothing, insurance, personal care, vehicles, child care, charitable donations, and entertainment. Students were responsible for making purchases at each station that best fit their income, then balanced their checkbooks. Upon completion, they assessed their decisions and financial status.

Meade completed the entire reality store and said, “I made $3,494 a month as an accountant, and I was married with no kids. My wife was a gardener and I picked up a second job on the weekends. The cost of groceries surprised me – they cost me $543 a month for two people, which is expensive, especially when you get the name-brand stuff.”

Amy Webb, Math teacher at L.F. Addington Middle School, said, “I worked the grocery station for students. Several students were wanting to buy from the liberal part of the grocery list. After I started tallying how much it was going to cost them, I barely got past them and their spouse before they were already saying, ‘Okay, no I can’t afford that. What’s another option for me?’ A lot of times, our students decided that they wanted to go down to the low-cost option because they could better-afford it. Before this experience, they don’t see how money plays into the real world, so this really helps to put things into perspective for them.”

Meade said, “The experience was extremely helpful. I’m happy to say that there are a lot of things that I learned, or that I know I should learn in time, and it was very fun.”

The project involved local students, teachers, 4-H employees, and several volunteers, including some college students and 4-H volunteers, who ran the stations around the gymnasium on the campus of UVA Wise.

Kate Hibbitts, retired Southwest Virginia educator turned full-time volunteer, said, “I think this experience is a big awakening for them – groceries, childcare, taxes. They want to buy the fun things first, so I think it’s a wonderful reality check – even for some of the volunteers.”

The hands-on, real life simulation gave young people the opportunity to make lifestyle and budget choices similar to those adults face on a daily basis.

Chris Branham, one of the participating students, said, “I enjoyed learning about going into adulthood, because when you’re a kid, you never really think about the expenses in life. I really had fun learning about all the stuff you have to take care of when you’re older.”

In addition to the reality store experience, hosting the event on the campus of UVA Wise has been another experience in itself. Hibbitts said, “I think the opportunity to come on a college campus is such a big opportunity for someone who is thirteen years old. You know, they live here, they drive by here, but very few of them have been inside the buildings. I just think the total package of the day, on a college campus, is worth it.”

United Way of Southwest Virginia fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in Southwest Virginia by forging unlikely partnerships, finding new solutions to old problems, mobilizing the best resources, and inspiring individuals to create lasting change in the lives of over 350,000 residents from all walks of life. United Way of Southwest Virginia mobilizes thousands of people to give, advocate and volunteer across 5,860 square miles (approximately 15% of the state of Virginia) in the counties of Bland, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Giles, Grayson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, and Wise, and the cities of Galax and Norton. For more information about United Way of Southwest Virginia, visit netnswvarelief.wpengine.com.