Letter to the Editor

Middle school students 'experience reality'

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

To the Editor:

On Columbus Day, Oct. 10, approximately 520 eighth-grade students participated in an annual event called Reality Experience. These students came from the four Putnam County middle schools, plus those of Dr. Collins Jr.-Sr. High School and Eminence and several who are home schooled.

They were given a unique educational opportunity to "experience reality." It was sponsored by three service clubs of Greencastle: Kiwanis, Lions and Rotary; plus philanthropic sororities, Kappa Delta Phi and Delta Theta Tau.

Prior to arrival, teachers helped each student select from a list of potential careers with approximate incomes. When they arrived at community building of the fairgrounds, the students first learned how their income was drastically reduced by "taxes," and they set up bank accounts with a "check register."

Then the students learned how decisions on family size, housing, transportation, insurance, food, clothing, furniture, healthcare, etc. affected their standards of living. They also learned the cost of DUI or other legal problems, or for having auto accidents and the value of having insurance coverage. With "money" left in their accounts they could plan a cruise or settle on renting a DVD.

These eighth-graders completed their experience by learning of community involvement, new career opportunities, and finally by voting on a current issue. This year they were asked if they thought the use of cell phones or other hand-held mobile devices should be illegal while driving. Over 62 percent voted in favor of such a law. Let's hope they continue that thought!

On behalf of all the students and over 130 volunteers, we wish to thank the following for their financial support: Kiwanis, Lions, Rotary, Delta Theta Tau, Kappa Delta Phi, First National Bank, North Salem State Bank and Tri-County Bank. Food and snacks for workers and students were donated by Lions, Kroger and Humble Pie. Thanks to all!

The sponsors, in turn, wish to thank the community's volunteers and to give special thanks to the teachers and advisers that prepared the students and guided them through the experience.

Additional thanks goes to the boys of the Key Club at ResCare for their help in set-up, tear down and clean-up. And a personal "thank-you" goes to Barbara Ashworth, who continued as our school coordinator/liaison for the past decade.

Feedback from the volunteers, students, teachers and advisers continues to be very positive. Some have commented that the lessons learned that day awakened students to their need for education and wise money management. A counselor also commented that "Indiana law requires that all students in grades 6-12 have instruction in personal financial responsibility. The Reality Experience helps us meet this requirement."

Most students had favorable comments like "I enjoyed learning about how much money my parents need to spend just to make our life better."

The service clubs and sororities continue to believe that the hard work and dedication of all those involved was well spent, and we look forward to continuing to host this annual event.

Jim Maxwell


Reality Experience

of Putnam County