How do you explain the cost of living to kids? The answer is to provide a “Reality Check!” On November 14, students from Kanab High School, Fredonia High School and Valley High School came together in the Fredonia High School gym to go through a simulated game of life.

Each student was assigned an occupation, assuming their age to be 25, provided the monthly salary associated with that occupation, and then sent into the “real world” to obtain housing, transportation, plus other necessities of life such as groceries and child care.

Organizer Colette Cox said, “The goal of this project is to help students become aware of basic skills in financial planning, goal setting, decision making, and career planning. The ultimate hope is for students to make realistic educational choices, which will provide for the future they anticipate for themselves and their families. By throwing a few curves into the picture, such as children and obligations, these young adults quickly realize life is not just a game, but an adventure for which they should prepare.”

Over 50 volunteers from the community, made up of business owners, government employees, parent volunteers and local school board members along with staff from area high schools, made this day a successful learning experience for students. Volunteers ran stations that included: housing, transportation, insurance, entertainment, clothing, utilities, groceries, childcare, communication, health and grooming, and charitable contributions.

Students who operated their vehicles without registration/insurance or were caught ‘speeding’ were given a ticket by Police Officer Bayden Grover and then had to go see the judge to pay a fine. After students visited every station, they were rewarded with a ‘Pay Day’ candy bar if they still had money in the bank or a ‘Zero’ candy bar if they had spent all of their money or were in debt. Volunteers enjoyed the opportunity to interact with high school students and knew they were a part of a unique, educational experience.

When asked about her opinion of the event, community volunteer Josette Rudolph said, “Loved it! Very close to reality in set up, pricing, etc. Kids really need this type of opportunity and they need guidance through it.”

 “Young people don’t understand a lot about what it takes to live in the real world. I heard many of them say ‘It costs too much to live’. It was a good eye opener for students,” said parent volunteer Robyn Rogers.

Student comments about the event included: “I was surprised how much less I spent on medical costs with insurance and how much kids are!”; “I learned that history teachers get paid decently”; “I experienced how quickly you can get into debt”; “Life is expensive if you have three kids”; “There are long lines at the DMV”; “I need to learn to save money”; “Education can help you get a good paying job”; “It was a good life learning experience”; “Money goes fast!”; “Now I know what my dad was talking about when it comes to money”.

Reality Check was sponsored by the Coconino Association for Vocation, Industry and Technology (CAVIAT), Southern Utah University – Education Talent Search, Town of Fredonia and Southwest Applied Technology College along with Fredonia High School, Kanab High School and Valley High School.

“We would like to thank all our volunteers who helped us make this event great. We were able to involve 200 students in this year’s Reality Check,” said event organizer Lisa Livingston. “This is our second year hosting this event at Fredonia High School, and we hope to make it an annual student activity.”