The WCC GEAR UP program partnered with the State Employees Credit Union and Wilkes County Schools to host The Reality of Money, March 27 – March 29. The simulation gave ninth graders an opportunity to experience future financial and educational realities.

Students were given a profile at the beginning of the exercise listing their occupation, level of education, salary, and family information. During the simulation, students moved through multiple expense stations such as housing, transportation, groceries, childcare and many others. Volunteers assisted them in making the everyday financial decisions necessary to make it to the next payday. Periodically, volunteers handed students “Stuff Happens” cards with challenging scenarios for students to determine how to handle them within their budget.

Lt. Rocky Moore, Wilkesboro Police Department stated, “We have been here throughout the three-day event handing out the Stuff Happens cards, which usually happens at the end of the month. Examples of situations on the cards would be they received a speeding ticket, they have co-pays for doctor visits, or they could receive birthday cards with money in them, so the situations are not all bad. I believe it’s been a real eye-opener for them, but the kids have been very receptive. It’s been a positive experience for the students and volunteers.”

“The team of NC/SC Credit Union Development Educators (CUDEs) created the activity in 2013. State Employees Credit Union has adapted and used Reality of Money since its development in 2013. Credit Union employees use our version in middle and high schools across the state. We have been fortunate to partner with the community and public-school systems to introduce experiential learning to North Carolina youth. For the 2016-2017 school year, we reached over 23,000 students across the state through Reality of Money,” states Tara Hanson, SECU Financial Services Representative II.

Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) is a competitive federal program that provides six- and seven-year grants to increase the number of students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. GEAR UP’s vision is that all students are academically, socially, and financially prepared to enter and complete the postsecondary program or institution of their choice.

“The Reality of Money experience created a safe learning environment for high school students to practice paying bills in the adult world. Each payment they made reinforces the messages: education is important to have a self-sustaining and family supporting income, managing money can be challenging when stuff happens, kids are expensive, and good credit is earned. This experience would not have been possible without the support of over 100 community volunteers from multiple companies, Wilkes County School (WCS) system, SECU, Communities In Schools, NWNC and the Appalachian GEAR UP partnership which includes WCS, WCC and ASU. Because of this partnership and the resource of community volunteers this model simulation is being taken to numerous students in our region, including nearly 500 in Wilkes this past week,” stated Rebekah Gardner, WCC lead career coach.