Students take trip to Reality Town

Published 7:00 pm Friday, February 18, 2011

When thinking about her career path, Brookhaven High Schoolfreshman Karen Anne Patti said she has wanted to be a filmdirector, marine biologist or involved in business. She said thatsometimes she wants to do a lot of things, and other times nothingat all.

After a trip to Reality Town Thursday at the Lincoln CivicCenter, Patti will probably be setting her sights high.

“It depends what you do how much money you’ll make,” saidPatti.

Patti was one of more than 500 high school freshmen to visit theJunior Auxiliary-sponsored event that serves up a dish of the coldhard facts of life. Reality Town began on Tuesday and endedThursday.

School buses made frequent trips to the Lincoln Civic Center tobring students from every school in Brookhaven and Lincoln County.This was the second year JA sponsored the function.

“We do it because we want students to realize the correlationbetween good grades and better job opportunities with bettersalaries,” said Shannon Miller, JA scholarship chairman.

As students entered the Lincoln Civic Center they were taughthow to manage a checkbook and were given a “monthly salary” basedon their first semester GPA. According to earnings statisticscompiled by the JA’s committee, students who made A’s received$1,908.75, students who made B’s received $1,654.25, students whomade C’s were given $1,208.88 and students who made D’s and F’searned $954.

“The more you learn, the more you earn,” said MississippiScholars Fundraising Chairman David Culpepper.

Students made stops at about eight different booths thatinformed them about the costs of living expenses such as insurance,utilities, groceries, mortgage, rent, cable, Internet and cellphone bills. At each booth, students were given three buyingoptions that ranged from less to more expensive and had to”purchase” something at each table to learn how to budgetaccordingly and see the difficulty of stretching a dollar.

“Some students don’t realize the concept of how much bills costand how much it takes in a salary to afford the finer things inlife,” said Miller.

Students began thinking about choosing a car based on better gasmileage rather than appearance, they asked questions aboutbalancing their checkbook and some students realized the cost ofeating is not that cheap when they looked at a grocery list.

“A lot of them say we’re the ones that hit them the most,” saidMarty Stroud, service manager for Wal-Mart Distribution Center.

School officials thought ninth grade was a great time tointroduce students to the concept of education and salary.

Brookhaven School District Superintendent Lea Barrett said shehas seen several students return from Reality Town with a freshoutlook on life. She thinks the program provides a “reality check”and possibly gives an extra boost to ninth-grade students who maybe struggling in their studies.

“Most ninth-graders think they’re going to play ball and drive aLexus,” said Barrett. “When they come back from this they’re alittle more in touch with the way life works.”

Miller said the program has seen more support in its secondyear. She said six more businesses participated this year comparedto last year and JA received more community volunteers andgiveaways.

She credited the increased involvement to the success of theprogram.

“The kids are getting it,” she said. “The kids are trulyunderstanding why education is important.”

While the event may seem a little scary and eye-popping for somestudents, most officials thought the event was enjoyable for theninth-graders.

“Any time you know you can get 200 students in one location andthey behave, you know they’re interested in what they’re doing,”said BHS Principal Jay Smith.