It was simply called Reality Check Day, and it no doubt made a lasting impression on the 150 juniors and seniors who took the recent personal finance course at Indian Trail High School and Academy.
They faced life’s questions and challenges, condensed in one eye-opening day. What does health insurance cost? Or a monthly mortgage? Or student loans?
Students started with a “life status card” that included their personal details and worked through scenarios at 17 different stations.
“This is about life; it’s a necessity to know all of this,” said Kelli Washburn Cairo, a business education teacher at Indian Trail who has been leading this effort since it was introduced three years ago at the school.
We featured Indian Trail’s Reality Check Day in the Kenosha News, but these activities go on at various schools throughout Kenosha County and beyond.
A big supporter of these is Educators Credit Union, which sent volunteers to Indian Trail and participates, overall, in about 22 of these types of activities in southeastern Wisconsin each year.
Educators Credit Union hosts about 15 schools for financial literacy events, according to Victor Frasher, its director of community engagement. Its volunteers visit other schools that have their own program.
“It’s one of the best events for the staff,” Frasher said. “They really like to give real world advice (to the students). At the end of the day we see them.”
Frasher said the credit union also has financial literacy platforms online for teachers.
It’s a win-win for the community to have Educators Credit Union and other businesses involved at this key time for students.
At Indian Trail’s Reality Check Day, 70 volunteers participated. Among them was Mike Krauter, senior vice president of new markets at Blackhawk Credit Union, who discussed such topics as credit scores.
“I think it’s important to do something like this,” Krauter said. “I wish I had something like this when I was in high school.”
Cairo said without the community’s support through donations and volunteering the program would not be possible. “We’ve been very fortunate,” she said. “(The volunteers) come back every year, and they really seem to enjoy working with the kids.”
She called it a “culminating event” for the students. “When they see what something actually costs, they tend to go, ‘Wait a minute.’ It begins to make sense to them.”
No doubt Indian Trail and other students who’ve spent time learning financial literacy have a head start. They’ll be ready to make hard decisions on accepting college loans and on starting 401ks when they begin working.