This 'Reality' Show Gives Students A Day-Long Simulation About Finances

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Synergy One Credit Union here sponsored a daylong simulation game to teach area high school students about making the right financial choices.

In a setting called The Reality Store, 50 seniors of Brentsville District High School were assigned various life scenarios based on their career interests, then given a predetermined annual income, according to Miriam Rigal, Director of Communications at the $195-million SOFCU.

"They may be single and may or may not have children,'' Rigal said. "The can be an electrical engineer or a janitor making $30,000 a year.''

With the help of area businesses that specialize in everything from selling furniture, cars and household basics to financial products and services and health care, students will purchase food, shelter, clothing, utilities, transportation and anything else they need to manage their lives within the income they earn.

"They're going to have to get creative,'' Rigal said, explaining that students will travel to various booths, where advisors will help educate them about the costs of living.

Their first stop: "The IRS where they'll get 30% chopped off their income right away,'' Rigal said. "Then, they can go to the credit union and set up an account.''

The Reality Store was made available to SOFCU through the Virginia Cooperative Extension. Co-sponsors include George Mason University, Prince William County Public Schools and Prince William County Greater Manassas Chamber of Commerce. The concept was originally developed by the Business and Professional Women's Club of Indiana to teach youths about money management.

"I heard about it through another credit union in another county seven months ago and knew we had to do it here,'' Rigal said. The first group selected to participate in what Rigal expects will become an annual event were high school seniors who participate in or utilize the CU's in-school branch.

Barbara Reese, Education Chair of the Prince William County Greater Manassas Chamber of Commerce, said her organization did not hesitate to sign on.

"The Reality Store is an excellent example of hands-on experience for high schoolers to learn about managing their money and finances in the real world,'' she said

Sharon Henry, Administrative Coordinator of Prince William County Schools, said she hopes to see the concept expanded to include students from other area high schools.

"By putting high school students through the paces of real life, we hope to expose them to some of the realities of life after high school,'' Henry said. "Offering students a hands-on learning experience at The Reality Store will afford these students the type of education they cannot receive in the classroom.''

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