Manheim Central juniors experience ‘Real Life’

By on October 23, 2019

Preparing for the world beyond high school can be a bit daunting. Choosing between pursuing further education and immediately entering the workforce play a pivotal role in a student’s future and finances.

To help prepare students to make this and other decisions, Junior Achievement of South Central Pennsylvania hosted Real Life, a day-long event for Manheim Central juniors on Tuesday, Oct. 22.

“We find that a lot of times schools don’t have enough room in their curriculum for financial literacy classes. Real Life is a financial literacy program; we try to teach students the concept of living within their means,” said Erika Donovan, JA’s director of REAL Life. “We say it’s not about how much money you make, but rather, what you do with it that’s important. It’s an awakening for students-they begin to see what it means to be an adult.”

Nearly 200 Manheim Central juniors participated in the event. Students spent a half-day focused on the Budget Builder activity. Each student selected a file that had a hypothetical life situation that included age, occupation, income and any debts. Using that information, they built a budget. They were seated at tables in groups of six. Stationed at each table was a community volunteer who helped provide guidance.

“This (the Budget Builder) is really the meat of the program. They have to make decisions on various aspects of their life,” Donovan said.

“It promotes student understanding of real life financial situations and obstacles that adults are faced with on a daily basis as they navigate budgeting their money, paying bills, saving for retirement and paying yourself first,” added Elizabeth Bender, Manheim Central High School assistant principal.

Julia Wolfe and (right) Gillian Martin work on a budget during the Budget Builder exercise of JA’s Real Life financial literacy forum. photo by Rochelle Shenk.

The other half of the day was spent involved in educational games. Students spent 30-minutes at stations that enhanced their financial literacy. Insurance Jeopardy focused on insurance concepts and safety. Other games included Financial Feud and The Price is Wrong where students visited tables containing groups of items such as automotive or baking and had to guess prices of the items. Real Life simulated Milton Bradley’s board game “Game of Life”; students picked a path–workforce or college–as a starting point and throughout the game decisions had to be made from there.

JA provides Real Life free of charge to all school districts. Donovan said the program is presented to about three dozen high schools annually.

“Student smiles, conversations and engagement in the activities said it all! I truly believe our students had a great day at Junior Achievement Real Life,” Bender said. ”The Real Life financial literacy forum hosted by Junior Achievement allowed business volunteers and community members to work with our students throughout the day to introduce them to a number of financial topics through various games. The forum is designed to give every student an opportunity to realize the importance that financial decisions play in their lives and help promote healthy money habits.”

“One lesson I learned was to make sure that I spend money on items that will benefit me financially in the future,” said student Troy Peters. “For example, in the Real Life game we played, you could either buy or rent a home. Those who rented did not have to pay for any unexpected bills like the AC breaking, but they did pay a monthly rent that kept rising. My group chose to buy a home as soon as possible. We made a great investment in a home, and in the end, when we went to sell, were rewarded with a property value increase of $50,000. Even though we had to replace appliances, we still made money in the end. This station taught us to save money, spend wisely, and expect the unexpected.”

About 40 volunteers from the Manheim area, teachers, and 12 MCHS students helped facilitate Real Life at Manheim Central High School. Donovan said volunteers received material about the program ahead of time and training the day of the event.

Donovan said that JA’s various programs, which all focus on economic education, will reach 100,000 students in central Pennsylvania this year, and that the outreach involves 8,000 volunteers from the business community. MCFEE (Manheim Central Foundation for Educational Enrichment) sponsors JA classroom programs in the district.

Rochelle Shenk is a correspondent for the Lititz Record Express. She welcomes your comments and questions at 

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