Hosted by Indian River State College (IRSC), the March 13 Reality Fair offered students insight to what their lives could be like in the professional world based only on current academic achievements.
“The whole purpose is to hammer home how doing well in school has a direct effect on your future,” PECS principal Brian Greseth said. “It also gives them a perspective on the real life situations their parents have to deal with.”
Students received a list of potential careers predetermined by their grade point averages and the monthly salaries they would likely earn. Once they chose a career, students took their budgets to nine stations representing expenses for housing, insurance, child care, furniture, transportation, groceries, personal luxuries, banking and “chance.”
At the “chance” station, which demonstrated how life throws unexpected curve balls, students saw a windfall like an inheritance or tax refund, or had to deal with an unexpected expense liked a speeding ticket or wisdom teeth surgery. The exercise taught students to live within their means.
“It’s like the game of Life, but a hands-on version,” IRSC Provost Russ Brown said. “Careers ranged from laborers to doctors. They have to make the numbers work. At the end, we hope they realize their GPA is important and that academic achievement will open more doors of opportunity for them as they get older.”
Eighth-grader Vivianna Gore-Martinez said she learned the message loud and clear.
“I need to raise my grades up if I want to make more money in the future,” said the 15 year old. “I’m concerned about it now; it’s something I know I have to do. This whole thing is a reality check of what life is going to be like.”
Vivianna’s 3.0 GPA earned her a “job” as a paralegal with a gross monthly salary of $4,264. She said she wants to be a sound engineer in a music studio and intends to work hard to follow her dream.
Seventh-grader Justina Martinez, 13, wasn’t too pleased with what the numbers showed her. Her 2.8 GPA qualified her to be a painter with a gross monthly salary of $3,273.
“My life is going to suck,” she said. “I have to pay attention more in school and try to focus on tasks.”
Some students were pleased with what the future could hold.
“I could live on this salary,” said Dante Thomas, 13. His 2.71 GPA qualified him to be a computer programmer and gross $6,744 monthly. “But it’s really hard to be an adult; it takes a lot of responsibility and hard work.”
Aidan Tommie, 13, got a hefty tax refund at the “chance” station and decided to put it into savings. With his 3.14 GPA, he chose to be a boat captain with a monthly gross income of $5,960.
“I know a lot about bills and stuff,” he said. “I watch my dad do them, and I pick things up real quick; to me it isn’t hard.”
IRSC received a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to focus on career awareness for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) related fields for middle and high school students. Brown presented the program to Okeechobee Middle School last year and customized it for PECS.
“It was an eye-opener to them about the value of a dollar,” Brown said. “They have idealistic lifestyles and realize they may not easily fulfill their desires.”