By Cindy Zomar, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Preparing high school students for their eventual entry into “The Real World” is certainly a daunting task, but, done correctly, it goes beyond teaching the core subjects and planning for success on the MCAS tests. To give them a little insight into what is in store for them, most high schools now have some type of reality fair,
At Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School, the targeted students are the sophomore class, not juniors or seniors as at many other schools.
“We continue to work with sophomores as this is the age where many students have their first job, work towards getting their driver’s license and at Assabet, prepare to obtain a ‘co-op’ job,” explained Maki Faria, Assabet’s career and college counselor.
Qualified juniors and seniors at Assabet have the option to work outside the school in their chosen technical program every other week, earning above minimum wage and continuing on-the-job training in their field.
“Our goal is to teach students not only to become great in their chosen technical program but how to use the money they will earn in a financially responsible manner,” Faria added.
Students enter the gymnasium with a budget sheet and a one-month “paycheck” based on a job corresponding to their chosen technical program. A student in house carpentry could wind up as an architect, a general contractor, a carpenter, or a home inspector, for example. A visit to one of the Paymasters trades the check in for Assabet bucks and then students must fulfill all the obligations listed on their sheets. Housing, groceries, utilities, transportation, insurance, clothing, savings, auto maintenance, loans/dues, and medical expenses are usually done first, and then with any remaining cash, students are enticed to sign up for cable, internet, cell phones, and gym memberships, etc.
“We also have booths representing charitable giving and retirement to remind them of their social responsibilities and the necessity of preparing for their future. The Wheel of Fortune/Misfortune and Dice of Fortune/Misfortune can either give them a boost in their income or represent unforeseen expenses, just like in real life,” continued Faria.
After visiting every booth, a financial advisor either congratulates them or gives advice on making better choices.
Some of the organizations represented at the fair included the Massachusetts National Army Guard, the U.S. Marine Corps, TD Bank, Avidia Bank, and IC Federal Credit Union.
Samantha Brown, Assistant Manager of TD Bank, Marlborough, was a volunteer financial advisor.
“This is an outstanding opportunity to give students a taste of real life,” she said. “We can educate them on real world issues before they are faced with real life challenges. They come in joking and then you can see how the seriousness builds and they start to stress and panic when things aren’t going quite as planned. We can help them strategize and reevaluate life choices, as we are all forced to do from time to time.”