Extension agent Raymond Cox said the store was designed to help students realize what it is like to become adults and deal with the responsibilities of work, careers, finances and being able to manage their lives in a grown-up society.
“This is our 11th or 12th year of providing the reality store, and it seems to be a big hit and a good learning experience for the students,” said Cox. “They seem to really enjoy it. And it helps them understand how important it is to be able to manage their lives and finances in conjunction with the career and educational choices they make while they are still young.”
Cox said young people between the ages of 14 and 20 make crucial decisions that affect the course of their entire lives through choices about educational paths, career options, lifetime mates and family living, and said they should be able to make these decisions with a sophisticated attitude and knowledge about the realities and options for their futures.
During the reality store project, students are given an occupation based on their educational plans after high school. This may include decisions of furthering their education after high school, dropping out of school or attending either a technical school or college.
The students are then given an amount of play money equivalent to the average salary of that occupation. They take their play money into the reality store and attempt to manage their finances by purchasing the necessities and luxuries they envision as part of their future lifestyles.
Cox said students are also given the opportunity to draw what is referred to as a “chance card,” which symbolizes unexpected expenses that can come up in a person’s life. However, Cox added that if a student found themselves in a bad financial situation, they could go to the SOS table that was set up to help them find their way back on financial track.
Many students attending the reality store said they enjoyed the opportunity to be able to see what they are facing for their futures and added that they now re-evaluating the educational and career choices that they had originally planned for the future.
Cox noted that after the trip through the reality store, students have a greater knowledge of what type of career they would like to choose as an adult and be able to set goals to achieve that career.
Representatives of local businesses in various fields, such as the housing industry, utilities, grocery stores, department stores, financial institutions, auto dealerships, medical professions, child care centers, and the travel and entertainment industries were on hand with booths to assist in the reality store.