Dose of Reality: Fair Teaches PFC Students Real Financial Lessons
âI need a daycare. I don’t have any money, âexclaimed Matthew Macleod. “What do I do?”
Macleod stood in front of the daycare table at the VyStar Credit Union Reality Fair on December 3 at Flagler Palm Coast High School.
Corinne Schaefer, Head of Career and Technical Education at PFC, invited VyStar to lead the program at the school’s media center.
The Reality Fair teaches high school students financial literacy by immersing them in real world situations.
âWe teach them to prepare for the future, so that they don’t have to fix their past,â said Omega Milton, coordinator of the secondary branch of VyStar, which hosted the fair.
Each student was given a real-life scenario that included an occupation, salary, marital status, credit rating, and the number of children they had to care for – from 0 to 3.
Once they had calculated their monthly deductions for taxes and health insurance, they walked around the room, stopping at 11 tables, held by volunteers from the community.
Each table represented a service – groceries, housing, utilities, child care, charitable contributions, entertainment, transportation, home and auto insurance, shopping mall (clothing, etc.), credit union and âLife Happensâ.
Think of the last table as a Monopoly Chance card. You could receive a premium for your job or you could have an unexpected flat tire or medical bill.
Flagler County School Board member Colleen Conklin hosted the Party Alley / Entertainment table. She said she was told to sell. So, she sold a cruise to a student, who obviously couldn’t afford a cruise in her script. She expected him to return to cancel the cruise. But most of the students were careful, she said.
In many cases, they’ve taken the other extreme, said Brett Winney, vice president of VyStar’s Palm Coast branch, which helped at the fair.
He said some would go to the mall table and say their kids didn’t need clothes, or their entertainment budget would just include a cup of coffee.
âIt’s funny how many of them got separated from concerts or going to Disney,â Winney said. âBut when you ask them what they did last summer, they’ll say, ‘We went to Disney. “”
Perhaps the most telling information students have learned is the high cost of child care.
âIt’s expensive,â Macleod said. âI am a kindergarten teacher, a single mother with three children and I rent an apartment. There are a lot of things I have to pay for. For the most part, I have to go for cheaper options.
But he found a solution to his daycare problem. Cody Fain had an unemployed spouse in his screenplay, so Macleod made a deal that he would pay Fain’s “wife” to babysit his children.
âIt teaches me about the real world and all the bills you have to pay,â Macleod said. âYou have to pay them. You can’t get around it.
Tamara Walker really had a live script. The youngest of three children with a single mother, Walker’s screenplay was a single mother with three children with bad credit.
In real life, Walker has a job and a credit union account, and saves $ 150 from every paycheque. She has a credit card that her mother co-signed for her and she pays her balance every month.
âI don’t want to go into debt,â she said. âI saw my mother get into debt and get out of it. I watch her do it all. My mother taught me a lot. She is very inspiring.
Walker took his script to the next level. Sure, she can balance her account now, she said, but what happens when kids grow up and face “life issues?” “
âWe teach them to prepare for the future, so that they don’t have to fix their past.
OMEGA MILTON, VyStar Credit Union High School Branch Coordinator
For many, the experience was a reality check. Marcae Smith’s “husband” was unemployed. After purchasing auto insurance, she returned to the insurance booth to cancel it and decided to cycle instead.
âYou see the kids are a little upset because they don’t have enough money,â said Adam Blair, Flagler Schools Program Specialist and vocational and technical education officer for the district.
During the program’s debriefing period, Milton noted, âSome of you had all the money in the world. Others said, âI don’t have enough to feed my children. This is real life. Some people live from paycheck to paycheck. Everything you have been through is real, and it is.
Branch managed by students in Matanzas
Winney said VyStar has just restarted reality lounges after a hiatus due to the pandemic. He said it was the 20th fair he had attended in his nine years with the credit union.
VyStar also has a program in some schools where students run a real VyStar branch in the school. As the secondary branch coordinator, Milton oversees the program in eight counties.
Matanzas secondary school has the program with 12 students who lead the branch during lunch periods. It’s a full-service branch run exclusively by students, where they take care of everything except loans. The branch currently has 58 accounts, Milton said.
The 12 students of Matanzas get class credits for branch management. After school and during the summer, the majority of them work at a VyStar branch and get paid, Milton said.
The 12 students also help Milton give presentations to Matanzas classes on financial education, including topics such as credit, saving and budgeting, student loans, and writing a business plan.
They reached 700 students at the school with these presentations, Milton said.
Milton said she had lived off paycheck to paycheck herself before. Therefore, teaching financial literacy âis a passion for me,â she said.