School Kids Get a ‘Bite of Reality’ Before ‘REACH’

L-R: Amistad High School students Cheyenne Chapa, 16, and Angelina Moran, 16, learn about budgeting and making real-life financial choices at the “Bite of Reality” event before the REACH 2017 annual convention.
L-R: Amistad High School students Cheyenne Chapa, 16, and Angelina Moran, 16, learn about budgeting and making real-life financial choices at the “Bite of Reality” event before the REACH 2017 annual convention.

Students from Amistad High School got a “bite of reality” when they attended an interactive financial education simulation designed to teach them how to manage money in the morning hours before the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues’ “REACH 2017” convention kicked off later on Monday afternoon.

The Nov. 6 event at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort in Palm Desert, CA school was offered by the Richard Myles Johnson Foundation (RMJ Foundation), the state foundation for credit unions in California and Nevada. Representatives from various credit unions volunteered their time to serve as “merchants” for the event.

The Bite of Reality event aims to teach young people the basics of finance by having them take a “real world” test drive complete with a job, money, and the freedom to make their own financial decisions. The 60 students were given a persona complete with occupation, salary, spouse and family, student loan debt, credit card debt, and medical insurance payments.

They went shopping, “purchasing” items such as housing, transportation, food, clothing, household necessities, and daycare. They dealt with pushy sales representatives as well as unexpected expenses and windfalls to learn how to make wise financial choices. And when some overspent, those staffing the "credit union" station provided much-needed assistance.

“I’m realizing how expensive life is,” said Cheyenne Chapa, 16. “I bought a house, clothes for me and my husband, clothes for my kid, and other things I needed.” The event reiterated how important it is—and will be in the coming years—to budget and save for life’s most pressing expenses. Cheyenne wants to start saving for a car and thinks it would be helpful if high schools focused more on financial education for students at her stage in life.

Standing right beside Cheyenne was Angelina Moran, 16. “This really helped me spend my money wisely,” Angelina said. “It confirms just how much life costs.”

This taste of reality is exactly what Tena Lozano, executive director of the RMJ Foundation, hopes young people take away from the Bite of Reality program. "Having students experience making financial decisions in a financial simulation gives them a better understanding of the challenges of adulthood without the real-life risks,” she said.

The RMJ Foundation’s Bite of Reality program has enjoyed a successful 2017 so far. Its mobile app, which was launched the previous year, is now reaching thousands of students throughout California and Nevada.

“We’ve received positive feedback about the app from both credit unions and teens,” Lozano said. “It is a time-saver and has created less confusion on the kids’ part now that the paper format is gone.”

The RMJ Foundation, founded in 1958, is dedicated to supporting credit union efforts in spreading the financial literacy message to young people. The foundation is funded through donations from credit unions, League chapters, corporations providing credit union services, and individuals. More information is available at www.rmjfoundation.org.

Pin It