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Teens learn about finances at fair
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The United Way recently held a Dollars and Sense Reality Fair to teach high school students about real world money management. Above, Jasmyne Giles (second from right) shows her budget to fellow Magna Vista High School students (from left) Shakirra Morrison, Deneatra Wall and Briteney Broadnax as they wait in line at the credit booth. (Bulletin photo)

Monday, April 15, 2013

By VICKY MORRISON - Bulletin Staff Writer

For some high school seniors, their focus doesn’t extend beyond prom or graduation. However, students were taught Thursday there’s a real world outside of the school walls, and it costs money.

Seniors from Martinsville High School (MHS), Magna Vista High School (MVHS) and Bassett High School (BHS) learned more about how much the real world costs at the United Way’s Dollars and Sense Reality Fair at the National Guard Armory.

“They’re right on the threshold of becoming adults and moving into the real world,” Bassett High School government teacher Matt Rorrer said. The fair aimed to tell the 250 seniors in attendance what it means to be a working adult in the real world.

The fair, sponsored by the Martinsville-Henry County United Way in conjunction with the HOPE Initiative, had multiple booths for students to visit. Booths represented such expenses as housing, utilities, healthy living (food and exercise) and transportation, but also offered extras such as leisure, entertainment and clothing.

Each student took a survey that gave them a pretend career for the fair. The career came with an average salary from which they would budget their pretend living expenses. The students were in charge of navigating through the booths and filling out a budget sheet with how much money they wanted to spend at each booth.

Many students, like BHS student Alexis Hodge, were money-conscious already but had their spending ideas broadened to the larger scale of adulthood. Hodge, who plans on becoming an electrical engineering technician, would earn $45,850 a year.

He said he didn’t feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities ahead of him: “It’s all in management, how you manage your money. Otherwise, you’ll be spending randomly on stuff you don’t need. You need to take care of your responsibilities.”

Another BHS student, Blake Martin, who had the same job as Hodge, recognized that cuts would be necessary and opted to buy generic groceries, eat out only four times a month and run in the community rather than at a gym. “It makes me realize how much (my parents) spend,” Martin said.

Thirty-five volunteers from area businesses and organizations worked the booths. Among those represented were National College, Southern Area Agency on Aging, Piedmont Community Services Community Recovery and Prevention Programs, National Guard, BB&T, New College Institute, Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC), MHC Coalition for Health and Wellness, the Harvest Foundation, Carter Bank and Trust, SunTrust, Fidelity Bank and American National Bank.

Carter Bank and Trust volunteers manned the clothing booth, which received sparse business. Tonya Jones said many of the students approached the booth wanting the most expensive, name brand items, but later returned to change their choices after calculating basic expenses.

The clothing booth volunteers encouraged students to consider their job’s uniform. For example, a nurse, Jones said, would mainly wear scrubs and not need dry-cleaning, whereas a lawyer couldn’t shop only at Goodwill and not use dry-cleaning services.

At the transportation booth, Rachel Wingfield, who works with PHCC’s Upward Bound math and science, directed students to choose a used car like a 2013 Honda Civic Accord instead of the new Corvette. MVHS student Shavun Taylor listened to her advice and selected the Accord. Already a car owner, Taylor said “It’s better to start off with a used car” to save money

MHS student Karina Altamirano said she was shocked at how much she had spent after only a few booths. “It’s a wake-up,” she said, laughing, “I will definitely have to change my spending, not go out to eat or go out as much; get my priorities straight.”

New College Institute admissions director Barbara Rakes helped students add their final budget at the Credit Counseling booth. Rakes counseled students, such as William Foster who was in debt $40.

When over budget, Rakes would recommend the students opt for a cheaper car or a smaller house “to have a little left over in case of a car breakdown,” she said. Rakes was impressed with the fair’s ability to “give the students a reality check.”


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