This year’s 8th Grade Duneland Reality Store introduced a new class of students into a decades-old tradition of immersive learning and community collaboration. Each student followed their own GPA-based career path through an adult finances simulation. It’s a fun way to see what life may be like for students a decade after high school.
The event was borne of a partnership between the Duneland Chamber of Commerce and the Duneland School Corporation.
“This event proves that it takes a village (over 100 villagers to be exact) of chamber members, family members, and school partners to help teach our students some life lessons on smart decision making,” said Duneland Chamber President Maura Durham. “We are very lucky to have such loyal community members. We recognize that having one of the best school systems in the State of Indiana will keep our community as one of the best places to live, work, and play.”
Volunteers from all industry types set up at booths in the upstairs gymnasium of Chesterton High School. Booths featured steps in an adult’s life: insurance, utility bills, buying a house, investments. Most of the volunteers are professionals from the community who are taking the time off work to share their experience with the next generation. Others are grandparents invested in their family’s future.
Some of them, like Reality Store co-chair Sue Edds, have been with the program since its inception.
“They’re going into high school,” she said, “They are about to make decisions on what classes they need to take to get the career they want with the income they need. Their eyes open [here]. Some of them skimp on insurance because they think they don’t need it. There’s a station at the end where a [random] good or bad thing happens to you. If you’ve chosen too poorly in [other parts of the Store], this could bankrupt you. And you have to go back and change things.”
John Marshall, Chamber Past-President and a member of the School Board, was in charge of investments. “The sheer number of kids that go through this program, most of them don’t have the opportunity to run into things like this. [The Reality Store] gives them a better understanding. It’s a reality check,” he explained.
The hardest part for student Liah Mauger was learning how to manage a bank account.
“We got to see what our future life is going to be like,” said Mauger, who was a Sales Manager during the simulation. “We don’t learn that in school. We have to make sure we’re not overspending.”
Volunteer Janice Custer thinks that the hardest station, once the kids are in the real world, will be childcare. It is a hard factor to emulate.
“It is an eye opener though. Some of them go to buy a car and they want a sports car. But if you have three kids, that just isn’t practical. Children definitely have an effect on your finances.” The last booth is for luxury items. If a student makes it through the rest of the simulation with money left over, they are able to purchase a reward for themselves, like a cruise or a fancy dinner. It all depends on the choices they made.
“After the event,” said Guidance Counselor Laura Herrod, “We are always pleased to hear the students react with some amazement at how education affects their life and earning ability. They hear it from us, but having this illustration is what makes it sink in.”