Students try out adult lives
May 5, 2007
Treasure Mountain eighth-grade students got a taste of what adult life might be like from taking an imaginary job, with defined skills commensurate with their not-so -imaginary Treasure Mountain grade point average to taking out loans to buy items they don’t necessarily need.
On Thursday, more than 300 eighth-grade students participated in Reality Town, moving around a gym-sized square of tables, from booth to booth like human pieces in a giant Monopoly game, spending their given money on what they deemed important in living their imaginary adult lives. They were required to deal with every table.
Treasure Mountain counselor Mary Klismith and administrative assistant Jennifer Frink organized the event, bringing together 70 volunteers, who pitched in, taking imaginary business positions that would be found in a typical town. They assumed their roles as bankers, car salespeople, insurance salespeople, financial planners and Realtors, to name a few, and helped students navigate through the complexities of life.
Students chose professions. Their grade-point average at Treasure Mountain determined the quality of jobs they could choose from. Treasure Mountain principal Bob O’Connor had some initial observations. "Some students take it pretty seriously, and some laugh it off. Some make the connection between grades and employability. But I’d like to at least see that it’s in the back of their minds."
Klismith said she does this with eighth grade students so they can see the importance in getting good grades. "This can be pretty brutal for some kids," she said. "Next year the kids will start ninth-grade with a clean academic record."
Student Parker Small took the job as a lawyer, possible because of his good grades. He is considering law as a profession. He was getting tired of signing checks in Reality Town. "I am going to work with credit and debit cards," he said. "Checks are a hassle."
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Flint Decker, a volunteer with the Park City Rotary Club, acted as a Realtor, his actual profession. He was pleased that students were asking him every imaginable question about home ownership. "Some were working within their means, and some were not," he said of their buying homes.
Volunteer Bonnie Park, who acted as a banker and then a car salesperson, said, "You see the wheels turning as they are making a buying decision." She said students weighed buying a more expensive new car with buying a used car that could have expensive maintainence. One student wanted a bus pass, she said.
As with adult life, good and bad experiences lay in wait for the students as they made their way through life. One table involved chance. Students drew a card. Some cards bore good fortune, one girl was "bummed," because she drew a card that presented her a $160 mechanic bill as her car had broken down. She had also had to pay for a root canal earlier.
"So far I am the bringer of doom," said volunteer Heidi Peterson, who worked the table of chance.
At the end of the experience, some students were in debt and some ended up with extra. "I had a kid who donated the $585 he had left to save the rainforest," Park said.
She summed up her experience working with the students, "I’ve done a lot of volunteer work, but this is my favorite."