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High School students get a lesson in reality

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Marlborough – As Massachusetts Credit Union League Vice President of Publications and Conventions, Marguerite Thorson was growing more and more concerned about the increase in bankruptcy filings that she had seen over recent years.

As president of the Marlborough Rotary Club, Thorson was given the opportunity to create a service project for the betterment of the town and its residents.

Wearing her two hats as one, Thorson created the Reality Fair, an event held at Marlborough High School designed to give students financial education through real world experience.

Students attending the Reality Fair must first research a career that they are interested in, and then come prepared to operate in the real world based on the salary expectations of their particular fields.

They must then secure necessities such as lodging, transportation, utilities and insurance before looking at any additional luxuries like gym memberships, cable TV packages, salon and spa treatments or travel.

"We want to give them a taste of reality, and to get them thinking about how they have to change their perspective on spending when it comes to practical life," Thorson said.

By giving students actual (albeit fake) currency and having them budget based on real life costs, Thorson said she's hoping the students glean more from participating in the fair than they would from a classroom lecture.

"If we just send an adult to each class to talk about fiscal responsibility, it would be a real snooze, whereas this forces them to be involved in an interesting way," Thorson said. "We made it interactive just as they would find it in life, so it makes it more engaging to them."

No life comes without unexpected costs and windfalls, so each student must also spin the wheel of fortune twice during the fair.

"They might get a speeding ticket, an unexpected dental bill or an illness, but they may also get a scholarship, an inheritance or a lottery payout," she said. "Just like in real life, you never know what you're going to get."

Financial counselors were made available to students throughout the fair to help them budget their money for the month. Digital Credit Union Youth Education Specialist Diana Wheeler was on hand to help students learn how to avoid financial traps they may be faced with in the future.

"They're going to get that credit card and max it out and be in debt before they even know it," Wheeler said. "At the end of their freshman year, the average college student will be $1,200 in debt, and we want to prevent that from happening."

While Wheeler overheard many students talking about how broke they were by the end of the fair, she said all are all much richer for the experience than they know.

"They're not always getting the information at home or in school, and these students really need to learn how to be financially responsible by the time they graduate high school," she said.

Dozens of volunteers from local businesses and community groups help operate the Reality Fair every year. The 2007 fair was sponsored by Digital Federal Credit Union, Rotary International and Business Professionals of America, and featured consultants from local banks, car dealerships, salons, gyms, grocery stores, realtors, communication and utility companies, and insurance companies.

Short URL: http://www.communityadvocate.com/?p=1288

Posted by on Nov 30 2007. Filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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