Manheim Central juniors experience JA ‘Real Life’

By on November 8, 2018

Manheim Central juniors Adrian Ryan, Grace Tracy, Kaitlyn Shirk, Hunter Shoop (kneeling) and Lily Sipel play the Real Life game.

Preparing for the world beyond high school can be a bit daunting. Major decisions such as pursuing further education or 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. 23.

“Real Life is a financial literacy program. The goal is to get them thinking about things like budgets and insurance; information they’ll use throughout their entire life,” said Erika Donovan, JA’s director of Real Life. “It’s a combination of fun and learning,” added Shannon Barker, JA volunteer coordinator.

Nearly 200 Manheim Central juniors participated in the event. Students spent a half-day focused on the Budget Builder activity. Looking around the high school’s auxiliary gym, it was obvious that students were focused and engaged in this exercise. “This is Really the meat of the program. They have to make decisions on various aspects of their life,” Donovan said.

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.

The other half of the day was spent involved in educational games. Students spent 30-minutes at stations that enhanced their financial literacy. The Wheel of Misfortune introduced a vocabulary of financial terms, while Insurance Jeopardy focused on insurance concepts and safety.

Some of the Manheim Central juniors involved in the Real Life game that was part of JA’s Real Life financial literacy forum (Photos by Rochelle Shenk)

“I never realized there were so many different types of insurances,” said Hunter Shoop.

Other games included “The Price is Wrong” where students visited tables containing groups of items such as automotive or baking and had to guess the 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.

“It’s been fun. I’ve also learned a lot,” said Grace Tracy after completing most of the educational games.

JA provides Real Life free of charge to all school districts. Donovan said the program is presented to about 35 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 and we have already booked our date with Junior Achievement Real Life for next year,” said Elizabeth Bender, Manheim Central High School assistant principal, “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 such as Insurance Jeopardy, The Price is Wrong, The Real Game of ‘Life’ and Financial Games. Students also participated in Budget Builder which 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.

Volunteer Tim Doly (standing) discusses budget with Tony Bui (left) and Brayden Groff (right) during the Budget Builder portion of JA Real Life


Volunteer Tim Doly discusses budgeting with Titus Brandt and Tony Bui during the Budget Builder portion of JA Real Life.

JA Real Life 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.”

About 45 volunteers from the Manheim area, eight teachers, and eight MCHS seniors 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. MCFEE (Manheim Central Foundation for Educational Enrichment) sponsors JA programs in the district. Bender said in the spring, JA’s STEM Day will be held for high school freshmen. She encouraged anyone interested in volunteering to help facilitate the event to contact JA at 717-843-8028 or at

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.

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

Alison Dowdrick (right) discusses budgeting with Laken Gibble (left) and Amani Elhossene during the Budget Builder portion of JA Real Life.

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