Freshmen to experience realities of good grades

Published 5:00 am Monday, October 26, 2009

How much money is a high school freshman’s GPA really worth?

Close to 500 ninth-graders across Lincoln County may soon findout.

The Junior Auxiliary of Brookhaven is partnering withMississippi Scholars to set up Reality Town, a one-day, hands-onprogram meant to show the correlation between students’ academicperformance in high school and their anticipated yearly earnings asa single 20-something working in Mississippi. The two groups areinviting every ninth-grader in county, city and private schools toattend the event, which is scheduled for Jan. 20, 21 and 22 at theLincoln Center, pending participation by the schools.

“It’s just going to make (freshmen) realize the importance ofgetting an education and how it can help them financially and intheir careers,” said Mississippi Scholars Chairman Kenny Goza.”It’s one more tool to put in the bag … something that will makethem go, ‘Gosh, I want some opportunities, and to do that I’ve gotto apply myself in the classroom.'”

JA President Emily Henderson said students participating inReality Town will be issued a “salary” based on their firstsemester grade point averages and presented with a list of servicesthey will need to survive, like utilities, transportation andinsurance. Students will visit booths manned by representativesfrom a handful of local businesses and purchase the necessities oflife while balancing their checkbooks…

… if they can afford it.

“If they have an 80-100, or As and Bs, they’re going to beearning what the average 25-year-old single adult earns inMississippi, about $25,000 per year,” Henderson said. “If you havea C average, it’s around $17,000. If you have Ds and Fs, we’regoing to assume you’re close to dropping out, and you’ll be anon-diploma worker with an annual salary of $12,000.”

To make the simulation even more life-like, each freshmen willalso have to draw a card from the challenge table – like CommunityChest or Chance in the board game “Monopoly” – that will eithergive them an unexpected financial boost or force them to budget foran unplanned expense.

JA and Mississippi Scholars representatives will pitch RealityTown to local school administrators and businesses Tuesday at anorganizational meeting at the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber ofCommerce at 8:30 a.m.

The meeting’s special guest will be Dr. Greg Paczak, a guidancecounselor at the all-freshmen Rosa Scott School of Madison who hasrun more than 500 freshmen per year through Reality Town since2004, when Rosa Scott picked up on the event from schools in WestPoint.

“Ninth-graders are not so far along in their academic careers towhere they can’t make a difference in the grades that occur afterthe (reality) fair,” he said. “They have an opportunity still toimpact the remaining three and one-half years of their high schoolcareers in a positive manner.”

Paczak said the bottom line of Reality Town is to motivatestudents to perform better in the classroom. He said most peopleare kinesthetic learners, meaning they learn best using the hand-onapproach, and Reality Town’s walk-through simulation drives homethe point.

“They’re not being told about how to write a check or livewithin a budget, they’re doing it,” Paczak said. ‘It becomes verypersonal.”

Aside from teaching a potentially hard lesson about therelationship between academic and financial success, Paczak saidthe event doubles as a dropout prevention method by urging studentsto focus on their high school education.

“Research has shown that if students can be promoted to thetenth grade on time, after one year in ninth grade, the odds ofthem graduating high school on time, or at all, increasesexponentially,” he said.