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Ellsworth juniors gain real life experience

Juniors participating in Reality Check had to check in to get an information packet assigning their career and other key items about their future lives. Sara Tischauser / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 4
Ellsworth High School juniors had to stop at different tables run by UW-Extension staff, school staff and community volunteers to pay and learn about expenses involved with living on their own. Sara Tischauser / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 4
The first place participants in Reality Check had to stop was the "bank" to get their checking accounts set up with their month's salary in the account. Sara Tischauser / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 4
Ellsworth High School juniors participated in Reality Check Feb. 7. Students had to learn to budget for the month and realized just how much things like groceries and utilities cost. Sara Tischauser / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 4

Ellsworth High School juniors gained some real life experience Feb. 7 as they participated in Reality Check, a collaboration between UW-Extension and Ellsworth Community School District.

Katie Feuerhelm, family living educator for Pierce County UW-Extension and Ellsworth School Board member, said this is the second year the district held the Reality Check simulation. Students filled out a survey ahead of time saying what they want in the future in regards to career, family, pets, etc.

On the day of the simulation, students receive information detailing their career, if they are married, have children and pets. From there, each student has to open a checking account and is given one month's salary based on that career. Then students have to budget for the whole month to see if they can manage their money from house or rent payments, to utilities to unexpected expenses.

Feuerhelm said at the end of the simulation, students sit down and discuss with a volunteer if they were in the black or red and what they maybe should have done differently.

"It gives them a taste of managing finances in the real world, without risk," Feuerhelm said.

EHS junior Mallory Bleeker found the simulation to be helpful about what she can expect in the future. She is looking to be an orthodontist assistant and this was beneficial because it gave her an idea what she could expect to make in that career and how she would need to manage her money.

"Living on my own is gonna be a lot of money," Bleeker said. "I think it's good we can learn how much things are."

Student Edline Hoffman found Reality Check to be helpful for her future planning.

"I thought it was great and amazing to do it and learn what to do in the future," Hoffman said. "And just learn what I would do in the future in my life."

Hoffman chose childcare as her career; she was surprised to find that paying the day- to-day bills each month could be difficult.

"I wasn't aware of my profession or how much everything cost, because I knew that living with a husband and children plus a cat would be a lot of money to spend and having a job too," Hoffman said. "I was able to budget correctly but I didn't have that much money to keep it running every month so I would need a second job to be able to keep the money up."

Just like Bleeker, Hoffman said she didn't know just how much it cost for day-to-day living.

"Big surprise was how much things cost in life and that sometimes things cost a lot more than I thought but helped [me] a lot more than I thought," Hoffman said.

In addition to learning about finances, Feuerhelm said the event helps students meet community members. She added the event wouldn't be possible without the help of school and Extension staff and community volunteers. About 50 community volunteers helped put on the event.