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Reality Store full of surprises

Sherry Allen, Community Contributor • Jan 17, 2016 at 10:30 AM

With the guidance of RIGOR After School Partner Donna Meade of the Russell County Extension Office, the Castlewood High School chapter of Future Business Leaders provided an opportunity for students to experience what their financial life might be like at the age of 28.

With professions previously determined through the students selection of a one of the 16 Career Clusters recognized by the Virginia Department of Education, participants of the LIFE Reality Store traveled from booth to booth purchasing necessities in order to provide for their “families.”

"The students seemed surprised to discover that even a fairly good paycheck may not sustain a household!" said English teacher Pam Roberson.

Alex Alfred and Abigale Campbell, seniors at Castlewood High, coordinated the LIFE Reality Store to include more than 250 students and 35 volunteers.

"I enjoyed watching the students studying to make the good decisions," said retired community volunteer Gail Rasnick.

Stations were set up to include transportation (Morgan McClure of Castlewood), insurance (Garland Hall State Farm, Cathy Mays State Farm Insurance, and CR Pate Insurance), groceries (Food City of St. Paul), and banking (Carter Bank and Trust). In addition, a host of retired business professionals mentored students as they helped them understand the average cost of housing, furniture, utilities, child care, medical, legal, clothing and entertainment.

“While in the LIFE Reality Store, I made $46,000 a year and I honestly thought that I could get whatever I wanted for my family. But, in reality, I came out with $20 left for the month after I had paid all of my expenses. I didn’t know that things would be so expensive!” said senior Ashley Collins, reflecting on what was learned.

All agreed that learning had taken place while having a great deal of fun.

Some of the most exciting moments occurred during each session of the reality store when Lady “Luck,” otherwise know as Mamaw Milton to the students at Castlewood High, provided life’s unexpected. From shouts of joy when she handed a student a note informing them that they had inherited money to the surprise of a fine for not buckling their seat belts, they quickly learned that you must prepare budgets for anything that might happen in life.