By Cindy Zomar, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – At the annual Reality Check event at Marlborough High School, seniors were challenged to live within their means for a month and praised for having cash to spare at month-end. The paper money may have been fake, but the pressure of living on a budget was clearly obvious to some of the students as they roamed the volunteers’ tables at the high school library. Taking care of necessities like food, shelter, and health insurance were first priorities for some of them, but others gravitated to the travel booth or chose a pet. The lure of a new car was too strong for many to ignore, and suddenly their paycheck looked a lot smaller.
Jayne Haley, business and information technology teacher and advisor to the school’s Business Professionals of America Club, has offered the Reality Check program to the seniors for about 15 years.
“It’s very important for students to understand financial literacy; in fact I am teaching an elective in that this year,” she commented. “There will be about 250 seniors going through the event today.”
As seniors entered the school library, Haley and her student and staff helpers were there to give them their paycheck, reflecting a career choice, and instructions as to how to play the game. “You make sure you visit all the categories that are on this guide sheet, and if you run out of money, see a financial planner or a bank to help you,” she advised them.
“The fair was developed due to the need to educate teens in personal finance before they leave the nest,” noted Peggy Thorsen, who champions the event from the Marlborough Rotary, supplying volunteers and the play money. “The goal is for students to realize that a good paying job will be essential to cover the costs of their living expenses and the importance of careful spending.”
She added that she believes over 5,000 students at Marlborough High and Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School have participated.
“I’d like to see this done with younger students, and I understand that there are some financial literacy classes being taught in the lower grades now,” Thorsen said. “We have to instill the idea of this game, the competitiveness, so they want to win, which would mean completing the worksheet with money left at the end.”
Marlborough Attorney Sem Aykanian was one of the volunteer Rotarians and his assignment was the Wheel of Fortune/Misfortune which all students had to spin. Senior Valentino Calvache was not so fortunate with her spin.
“This is teaching me how to manage my money,” she admitted.
Aykanian volunteers for this event each year because it helps to stay involved with the kids in the community.
“In Rotary, outreach and youth services are very important. I have been struck by the maturity level of the kids today, they take this all in stride,” he said.
The Reality Fair at Marlborough High was started by the Marlborough Rotary Club with the assistance of the Business Professionals of America and the School/Business Partnership Committee of the Marlborough Regional Chamber of Commerce. This year one of the major sponsors was the St. Mary’s Credit Union, who supplied each student with a padfolio to keep.