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'Real World City' event teaches financial literacy

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Seventh and eighth graders from around the region participate in the Real World Financial Literacy Camp Wednesday at the Jamestown Civic Center. At this booth students learn about the expense of vehicles and automotive repairs. John M. Steiner / The Sun2 / 2

After a morning of learning personal finance skills middle students put the knowledge to work in a virtual life scenario Wednesday at the Jamestown Civic Center.

"I think it's teaching us how to manage stuff when we're older so we're not just thrown to the wolves," said Hadlee Mathias, an eighth grader at Valley City High School. "So we have some idea what we're going to do and learn to save money and things like that."

Around 202 seventh and eighth grade students from Edgeley, Kulm, Montpillier, Valley City and Wishek schools attended six personal finance classes on budgeting, savings, credit, security, identity theft and money scams at the Real World Financial Literacy Camp. The event was organized by local volunteers working with the ND Jump$tart Coalition, which sponsored the event.

"It's a fun day for students to learn some important basics about finance," said Melissa Woods, volunteer. "We like to keep it fun and interactive and interesting and hope they have a good time."

Experiences in 'Real World City'

Real World City, a hands-on exercise that teaches how to live within one's means, gave each student a pretend income, education level, marital status, children and other criteria, said Chelsey Francis, organizing committee member. There were also random cards with life surprises from job loss to medical bills, student loans and more, she said.

"You just never know what life might throw at you and so the (Real World) City is set up the same way," Francis said. "Some are good, like a date at the movies, and some are bad like an unexpected broken leg and surgery."

Employees of 23 area businesses and organizations explained the costs of the goods and services to students at their booths, she said. The students adjusted their budgets accordingly to stay within budget, she said.

Sarah Crossingham, social studies teacher at Wishek High School, said the camp applies real world events and is what students need to know when they graduate. This helps to organize and budget along with some practical skills they can use for a lifetime, she said.

"That's just really effective and that's why I really like coming to this camp," Crossingham said.

Jen Dockter, broker at BluFrog Realty, said the hope is to show that it takes more than income level alone to own a home. She taught about how expenses of owning a home are more than the mortgage, she said.

"We figured in all the other expenses that it would cost to live in a house," she said.

The kids learned about car responsibilities from Rod Wilhelm, co-owner of Wilhelm Chevrolet Buick GMC in Jamestown.

"I think it's wonderful," he said. "We teach them about repairs and tires, financing and insurance."

Marissa Gahner, director of the Learning Circle, said she showed students how much it would cost for a week of full time day care for one or more children. The students worked the information into their budget, she said.

"They were shocked," Gahner said. "Honestly, I feel like it's a great thing for them to look at to see how things actually are."

Andrew Staska, the school resource officer for Jamestown Public School District, said students were given pretend moving violations with fines that ranged from $10 to $500. He told them about driver's license points and how violations can also result in losing a license.

"I think they are definitely surprised at some of that and I think they are kind of opening their eyes to what can happen," he said.

'Candidates' interview

The volunteers put together a job interview skit for the students that were based on actual interviews conducted at Jamestown area businesses. The mock job candidates had various levels of skills and experience along with issues of preparedness, motivation, personality and maturity.

"The key takeaway is that not everybody's perfect and you will find a very diverse candidate pool everywhere you go," Francis said. "We were showing them what to do and what not to do in an interview."

The candidates texted, answered phones and bad-mouthed previous employers and coworkers. Some said they applied because of the money, she said.

The consensus candidate was a woman with no job experience but who demonstrated a sense of responsibility and maturity that impressed the interviewer. Her life experience had job relevance even though she didn't see it.

"The situation is telling the students, don't underestimate yourself or cut yourself short," Francis said.