8th grade students from Fegely Middle School, Nativity of Our Savior Catholic School, and Willowcreek Middle School gathered in the gym at Willowcreek Middle School to take part in the Portage Reality Store. A program put on by the partnership of by Purdue University North Central and the Greater Portage Chamber of Commerce, the students spent their morning learning the real costs of living. Volunteers from businesses around the community helped the students along the way to make sure that they made the right financial and career decisions.
This program is meant to teach the children a lesson. The students choose a career and they are given a salary based on that choice. They make their way around the gym, moving through 16 stations where the volunteers help them make choices to see if they are able to live within their means. If the students are able to make the right choices and come out with money left over, then all is well. If not, they are offered the option to visit a bankruptcy table. Here, the decisions that the students made are evaluated to see which were poor choices and how they can make better decisions in real life.
Susan Brychell and Leslie Plesac, Community Relation and Events Directors for PNC, were available to help the kids and volunteers during the program.
"It used to be that when the kids when bankrupt that they had to do the process over again but we changed that and the volunteers at the bankruptcy table help the students find out where they made mistakes." Brychell said. "They are using checkbook registries which the kids don't use anymore but it shows them how the money can go so quickly. They write it down and see the changes."
"It's really just an exercise in real life," Plesac said. "It's a lot of fun. We've been doing it with the Portage Chamber for four years but it's been done for a long time in Portage."
The Reality Store is a concept that was created by the National Business and Professional Women Association. It opened the eyes of many students, making them rethink what they plan to do in the future.
"I wanted to figure out what I'm going to do for a living and how much I can spend and save." student Leah Anton said. "This program helped me out."
"It was really interesting. I liked the experience," student Stefen Psomadelis said. "It wasn't what I expected because I thought I would save more money but reality hit me."
A shout out goes to PNC, the Portage Chamber, and everyone else involved for hosting such a successful Reality Store and good luck to the students as they take on their futures.