Garrison Students Get Finance Experience With Reality Fair

By Benjamin Cox on November 6, 2023 at 12:08pm

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Garrison Middle School and High School students got a taste of real world finances on Thursday. The school held its annual reality fair yesterday.

The fair gets various support from members of the Four Rivers Special Education District as well as help from businesses and organizations in Jacksonville and South Jacksonville.

Megan Graves, who organizes the fair says its a way for students to get a hands-on lesson on what it means to be an adult paying their own bills and working different jobs: “US Bank has a volunteer that comes and they donate check registers. We give the students a random job. With their job sheet, it has what their average monthly income is. We get those numbers from one of our Transition programs that we use. These are actual numbers students would see in the real world. There are ten booths that students visit. One is dedicated to housing where they can choose to rent a house, get an income-based apartment, or rent an apartment. Another table is for transportation where there is a variety of transportation they can choose from.”

There were also tables for groceries with numbers taken directly from the USDA website, an entertainment table, a grooming table, a utilities table, a furniture table, as well as a random draw table. Graves says this table was meant for those unpredictable moments that often happen to families: “It could be that they broke a bone and had to visit the hospital, or had a toothache and needed to visit a dentist, or got a speeding ticket. Not all of the chances were bad. Some of the chances were where they played the lottery and won some money.”

Graves says this was all meant to give students real-world scenarios outside of the confines of the classroom: “It’s very important for our kids to get this type of experience. Most junior high and high school kids don’t get to have many real world opportunities. Whenever we get to have an event like this, they get to really see the prices as they are now and this is what it’s going to be like. It’s not really more concrete than that other than throwing them out into the real world. It was nice for them to have the physical part of having the checkbook and writing the checks for the things they needed to buy.”

Graves says approximately 40 students participated in the event this year, which she says was really an eye-opening experience for them. She says the adults manning the booths also got to experience a bonding moment with the students to walk them through the different money scenarios they found themselves in and they also got to peer into the minds of students and see what their priorities were, based upon the choices they were making.