Teens get real with newest JA service project

December 5, 2009 1:43:00 PM

Jan Swoope - [email protected]


Columbus High School juniors got a taste of the real world when Junior Auxiliary of Columbus hosted a Reality Fair recently for 253 students. 


Armed with a "salary" commensurate with their GPA from the first nine-weeks grading period, the teens visited seven booths intended to give them a glimpse into the economic realities of life after high school and the importance of education on their future earning potential.  


"The main objective is to show 11th-grade students about finances and obligations they will have after graduating from high school," said JA member Allison Kizer. "Our goal is to open the eyes of these students so they have a better understanding of what it actually takes financially to be on their own and pay their own bills." 


Booths for housing and insurance, utilities, car insurance and tag, groceries and gas, cellphone and technology, Chance and the Bank offered students choices they had to "budget" for. 


JA member Trish McGrath said, "At the Chance booth, you could get anything from good fortune to bad luck -- a tax refund or maybe an unexpected expense.  


"Money was based on GPAs; lower scores were equal to minimum wage jobs," noted McGrath. "And taxes were taken out, so that was a little shocking to the kids." 


After visiting the six situational booths, teens visited the Bank to see how much money they had left at the end of their month. JA bankers helped them reconcile checkbooks and offered suggestions on how they could have perhaps made wiser choices. 


Tre Baity, 16, said, "The whole thing brought me to reality. School is what you really need. No matter what you have, you can never have too much education. The smarter you are, the more opportunities you''ll have in life." 


Baity, the son of Sandra Wax, admitted, "The gas booth was probably the most surprising. With my ''salary,'' I was able to afford the Escalade, but when I went to fill it up, it was something like $80!" 


Courtney Freland, the daughter of Tracy Ferraez and Ed Freeland, hadn''t thought much before about auto insurance, but the 16-year-old was "shocked a little bit" to discover it is "pretty expensive." 


"This was just a little eye-opener," said McGrath, of the Fair. "Some were really surprised that even though they felt like they had a lot of money at the beginning of the month, once they paid expenses, their money would quickly go. One said, ''Wow, I know now how my mom feels.'' And we didn''t even include clothing, entertainment or medical insurance." 


Freland acknowledged, "It was extremely helpful as far as managing money." 


The Reality Fair joins other Junior Auxiliary of Columbus projects including Clothing Room, What Tadoo, Junior Auxiliary Mentors, Girls Empowered to Model Success, Imagine U, In My Shoes and Choose Your Path as outreach to the children and youth of Lowndes County.

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.