Friday, January 19, 2018
Education

High school seniors explore budgeting in 'Reality Store' activity

WESLEY CHAPEL — It wasn't the best of days for 18-year-old Zach Wark. The tuition bill was due, and his car had been vandalized to the tune of $600. Now he needed a place to live and was having a tough time rounding up a roommate — a real necessity in keeping a roof over his head on his $25,000 annual salary as a receptionist, before taxes.

He wanted to tuck some money away, maybe even invest a little. But then there were living expenses to think about, like that $4,000 car insurance bill for that new Toyota Yaris that would run about him an additional $4,100 a year.

Vacation?

"I don't know about that — I think I'm going to have, like, 100 bucks left," Zach said, as he carried his clipboard to the "travel agency" table in the media center at Wesley Chapel High School. "Life with a $25,000 salary looks like a big downer."

And a bit of a wake-up call for Zach and other Wesley Chapel High students last week who were treated to a taste of what's to come at the school's annual Reality Store.

It's a game of sorts and a rite of passage for the past seven years for graduating seniors. During one class period they have to figure out how to live on a salary doled out randomly. While Zach had only $25,000 to work with, the luck of the draw gave classmate Alicia Menendez, 18, a lot more wiggle room with $47,550 to live on.

"I can afford my own apartment," Alicia said.

And the $4,500 in child care expenses that she had been handed.

Throughout the class, students visited various tables manned by volunteers to figure out their expenses. First stop was Uncle Sam, where they learned how much will come out of their paycheck for taxes and Social Security. After that came the Realtor, the car dealership, the investment banker and the travel agent, where they might get a week in Europe or a weekend at the TradeWinds Island Resorts on St. Pete Beach.

"This is a little reality check," said guidance counselor Kristina Kiser, who organized this year's event. "It gives them a taste of real life experience — how to afford things, how to save, how to pay bills."

Those bills include rent, food, car insurance, tuition and other unexpected expenses that might crop up when you take a turn on the "wheel of fortune." One spin can mean more out-of-pocket expenses for a trip to the doctor, child care, braces or a traffic ticket that's going to cost a bundle or add even more dollars to that car insurance payment.

"This is a good jumping-off point for them to see what things really cost," said economics teacher Mathew Kirouac. "A lot of these kids don't think about these things because their parents take care of everything."

His students were working for a grade, but would also spend time discussing how they could improve the hand they were dealt at the Reality Store. "We'll talk about what you can do about it. Can you change your way of living? Maybe take the bus and get rid of that car?"

In the future, Kirouac's students will take a closer look at what next year is really going to cost for them.

"We'll research their individual school campus, what their living expenses will be so they can get a clearer picture of what it's going to cost," he said.

Those life lessons weren't lost on Zach as he tallied up his expenses at the Reality Store. When all was said and done, he had a little over $300 left after opting for a short trip to the Bahamas.

"If it's going to be a life of downers you might as well have a good time," said Zach, who in real life already pays for his own car insurance, gas and entertainment expenses.

"So did you learn anything?" Kiser asked him as he packed up his belongings for the next class.

"Yeah — not to be a receptionist."

Comments

More than 400 apply to Pasco technical high school

School choice for 2018-19 is in full swing, and district officials said they’ve been pleased with the interest they’ve seen so far.The window for applying to the district’s magnet schools closed Jan. 12, except for applications for the new Wendell Kr...
Published: 01/18/18
Read the report on the fatal FSU frat party: ‘The most intoxicated’ they had ever been

Read the report on the fatal FSU frat party: ‘The most intoxicated’ they had ever been

"On Nov. 3, 2017, the Tallahassee Police Department responded to 1012 Buena Vista Drive … in reference to a death investigation."So begins a charging document in the case of Andrew Coffey, the 20-year-old Florida State University student who was foun...
Published: 01/18/18
In St. Petersburg, skeptics sneer at plan to concentrate USF power in Tampa

In St. Petersburg, skeptics sneer at plan to concentrate USF power in Tampa

In the state capitol on Wednesday, lawmakers breezed through the bullet points of a higher education bill. They skimmed past a hot-button proposal to consolidate the University of South Florida System into a single university without a peep of pushba...
Published: 01/18/18
Five things to know about teacher pay negotiations in Hillsborough

Five things to know about teacher pay negotiations in Hillsborough

TAMPA — They were hoping to receive between $15 million and $17 million in scheduled pay raises. But the Hillsborough County school district says it can’t afford to give its teachers anywhere near that much, while the teachers say they deserve nothin...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Young Pasco teacher faces cancer with support of students

Young Pasco teacher faces cancer with support of students

NEW PORT RICHEY — At age 28, things were really shaping up for Joel Santos-Gonzalez. Fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a teacher, he had just completed his third year at Gulf Middle School."I always liked to talk to people on an intellectual ...
Published: 01/17/18
Updated: 01/18/18
In Pinellas and beyond, deadlines for school choice are closing in

In Pinellas and beyond, deadlines for school choice are closing in

It’s decision time in Pinellas County and other local school districts as several school choice deadlines are upon us.For Pinellas families who want to apply for a magnet, fundamental or high school career program for the 2018-19 school year, the dea...
Published: 01/17/18
Updated: 01/18/18
For FSU fraternity, a wild night turned tragic

For FSU fraternity, a wild night turned tragic

The night of initiation was the most that the brothers of Florida State University’s Pi Kappa Phi chapter said they had ever seen their pledge class drink.That was the plan, court records said: Pledges would arrive at the fraternity house Nov. 2 and ...
Published: 01/18/18
9 face hazing charges in death of Florida State fraternity pledge

9 face hazing charges in death of Florida State fraternity pledge

TALLAHASSEE — The death of a fraternity pledge from alcohol poisoning has led to hazing charges against nine Florida State University students.State attorney Jack Campbell filed charges on Wednesday in Leon County Court.All nine will be charged with ...
Published: 01/17/18
From the archive: USF St. Petersburg’s long journey to autonomy

From the archive: USF St. Petersburg’s long journey to autonomy

As the Florida Legislature considers undoing the current governance of the University of South Florida by folding the three branches of its system into one entity, here is a look at some Times coverage of the long-running struggle for independence at...
Published: 01/17/18
How a small campus grew into an independent USF St. Petersburg

How a small campus grew into an independent USF St. Petersburg

Just a satellite campus many decades ago, the University of South Florida St. Petersburg has managed to carve out considerable autonomy within the arms of the USF System. But a bill moving through the state House of Representatives could undo its sep...
Published: 01/17/18