Eighth grade students at Duran North Junior High School in Pell City are getting ready to enter high school and plotting a course for their future education and careers.

At the third annual St. Clair County Extension Office Reality Check event last week, these students got a dose of what those chosen career paths would look like in a real-world scenario. 

“Each student chose their own jobs,” said Dr. Shalonda Gattis, eighth grade counselor. “Some of them changed their minds when they saw what their income would be.”

The 300 students chose a career, and then were randomly selected if they were single, married, or had children. The scenario assumes they are 25 years old and the primary support for their household. Some had spouses that worked while others stayed home. For some, this scenario changed how they would spend their income on such things as housing, vehicles, daycare, insurance, groceries and fun.

“This is an invitation for a conversation,” said Danielle Pope, Pell City High School Workforce Development Coordinator. “It is impossible to include all scenarios, but it opens it up.”

Over 70 volunteers sat at booths where students would come to purchase a home, a car, insurance, groceries, clothing, daycare, and fun if they had any funds left. There were options for employment if they needed a second job, which some students had to take advantage of when their funds ran out at the end of the month.

“This program shows the financial decisions students make affect the whole month,” said Shelley Kaler, Pell City High School Career Coach. “Money will run out for a lot of families. Students see that parents can’t afford everything.”

The Reality Check program was initially brought to Alabam by Angela Treadaway, of the Shelby County Extension Office in 2004 and continued to grow. 

“We started doing small classes in 2004, bringing the community together,” said Lee Ann Clark, County Extension Coordinator with the St. Clair County Extension Office. “We have volunteers from different areas, including master gardners, bankers, chamber members, realtors and the District Attorney.”

Heidi Tilenius, with Lauderdale County Extension Office, said Clark helped to grow the program, which has spread across the state. 

“This is a good way to show students that they are not only getting ready to graduate, they are getting ready to live,” said Gattis.

“Living life is hard,” said eight grade student Kelsey Grant. “It’s really tough to save money.”

This Week's Circulars