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A Touch of Reality: JA program teaches students real-world skills

THE DAILY LEADER / RHONDA DUNAWAY / Sydney Wilson with Betsy Smith Properties of Brookhaven (standing right) explains to students Anna Martin (standing left), Dominique McWillie (seated facing) and Khaiesha Lindsey, all of Brookhaven High School, the steps required in purchasing a home and the differences in buying versus renting. The presentation was a part of "Reality World" at the Lincoln Civic Center Thursday.

THE DAILY LEADER / RHONDA DUNAWAY / Sydney Wilson with Betsy Smith Properties of Brookhaven (standing right) explains to students Anna Martin (standing left), Dominique McWillie (seated facing) and Khaiesha Lindsey, all of Brookhaven High School, the steps required in purchasing a home and the differences in buying versus renting. The presentation was a part of “Reality World” at the Lincoln Civic Center Thursday.

Lincoln County ninth graders got a reality check this week when they learned how far a dollar goes in the real world. Thanks to the Junior Auxiliary of Brookhaven, more than 500 high school freshmen know a little more about the meaning of earning potential and hard work.

This is the fifth year for the event the JA calls “Reality World.” The event is a three-day long project for the JA members and area businesses and agencies that set up in Lincoln Civic Center. Event chairman Shannon Miller explained students begin the day with a set amount of money that represents a monthly income – one comparable to their teachers’ – but also based on their GPA’s. A’s received $1,908, B’s received $1,654, C’s received $1,208 and D’s and F’s received $954.

There were seven stations students had to go through that represented seven economic facets of real life: insurance, car, house, groceries, phone, cable/internet and electricity/utilities. At each station, volunteers from various businesses and organizations such as Magnolia Electric, C-Spire, Betsy Smith Properties and Farm Bureau, explained to students what is required to set up accounts or take care of business. Students got a primer on things such as what is needed to buy a home, a car, get insured, rent an apartment and set up a cellphone account, among many other details that life requires.

Students were given calculators and checkbooks with their salaries logged in them, and at each booth they were required to make a purchase.

Miller said she hopes the difference in salaries brings home a point to kids.

“This is just a snapshot of life,” Miler said. “And we wanted to demonstrate how working had in school and making good grades relates to real life.

“I think they have learned to become more appreciative of mom and dad,” she said, “and maybe understand the pressure on parents to provide.”

Among the volunteers was Kay Burton, marketing director for the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce. She said that this project is about helping kids become successful.

“I hear from the students and parents,” Burton said, “and, they say this is the best hands-on way to learn what it costs to live, and how this next four years can affect their next 40,” Burton said.

“This is all about getting successful outcomes,” she added, “and helping them make a good decision about their life. I think it’s a real eye-opener to see what it costs to live just comfortably.”

Miller said the JA had a lot of help from the Copiah-Lincoln Community College Trailblazers, too.

“The Trailblazers are a huge part of this,” Miller said. “They send a lot of volunteers each year. They’re great. They show up on time and they work hard.”