Caldwell Students Experience Life in 'Reality Town'

June 21, 2015 | Bonny Smith

The Caldwell Adventist Elementary School (CAES) held a Reality Town event in April to help students in grades six through 10 experience a taste of adult reality and financial responsibility. Reality Town is a two-hour simulation program that assigns students a personalized pay stub, spouse information, child information, career and salary. 

During the simulation, students made financial decisions regarding their Reality Town family and their monthly expenses as they circulated through 22 various businesses, such as groceries, housing, insurance, child care, banking, car sales, clothing, military and utilities. Students had to decide on housing, transportation, insurance and other daily needs. 

Running out of money meant heading over to the financial counseling station. Some stations required the students to draw a card that shared a specific life event that either made or cost them money. Root canal? Car repairs? Family vacation? Better have some money in savings.

Students managed a personal check register and wrote checks for expenses. The recruiting station even required an entrance exam that included intelligence questions and pushups (based on age) to receive military reserves supplemental income.

Each station was staffed by local volunteers, including pastors, parents, board members and local businesses. Support and volunteer services came from Wells Fargo Bank, U.S. Army Recruiters, Express Employment, Idaho Youth Ranch, Stepping Stones Early Childhood Center, Western Heating and Air, city of Caldwell clerk's office and Gem State Adventist Academy in Caldwell.

Sixth- through eight-grade students from Eagle Adventist Christian School, Boise Valley Adventist School, Treasure Valley Adventist School in Payette, and ninth- and 10th-graders at Gem State Adventist Academy were invited to participate in the event with CAES. All seemed to enjoy the experience, despite some financial obstacles. One student exclaimed, "I don't have enough money left for food!" Time to go rethink that expensive house or Lexus.

The Reality Town program comes from REAL Curriculum of Lehi, Utah, and CAES was able to purchase the curriculum and materials through the Go On grant from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation that promotes postsecondary education, educational planning and career planning ( Visit the Caldwell Adventist Elementary Facebook page for more information on Reality Town and other CAES events, or use the QR code.