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Reality store offers dose of reality for students

Students from Pillager, Staples and Menahga high schools line up at the bank for1 / 3
Ann Hutchison, far righ, explains how to calculate money to Staples High School 2 / 3
The cost of child care was a big surprise for most students.3 / 3

Often times the words “I can’t wait to get out on my own and into my own place,” are heard from teenagers across the board. But Wednesday, juniors and seniors from Pillager, Staples and Menhaga got a glimpse on how financially difficult the “real world” can be.

More than 200 students participated in Pillager High School’s “Reality Store” day. Started five years ago after witnessing the event at a Wisconsin school, the day lets students pick their career and then, through a computer generated random pick, are given marital and family status.

“We want to teach them (the students) how life really works,” said Ann Hutchison, a teacher at Pillager and one who helps coordinate the daylong event.

Students begin with their gross income, followed by visiting the “Uncle Sam” booth where taxes are deducted. Once taxes are removed, students stop off at the “bank” to deposit their spending money into a bank account that they then can use freely throughout the high school gymnasium’s different booths. An account that while it started out like “a lot of money” they saw dwindle quick.

“I am paying nearly $1,000 in taxes,” said Michael Richards, a junior at Pillager who was a married military officer for the day with one boy and one girl and a dog. “And then I was surprised how much it costs for a baby, that was $800, which is more than I spent on groceries.

“I still got TV and internet though, because it will benefit the whole family.”

Others didn’t splurge on the luxuries, like Tristin Long, a junior at Pillager who was role playing as a single photographer.

“I have to ride the bus, I’m not thrilled about that,” said Long who said she opted to not purchase a vehicle to cut down on costs. “And I think with just $1,200 to spend, I would probably choose a different career path than a photographer.

“But this is nice to know how much things cost on that budget. I never knew how much food actually costs.

“I now know how and why my parents sometimes struggle with money.”

Hutchison said every year the students are excited to see what it’s like to somewhat “be on their own.”

“A lot of them don’t realize what it really can be like out there,” she said. “This is a way to help maybe prepare them just a bit before they have to find out for real.”

JESSI PIERCE, staff writer, may be reached at 855-5859 or Follow her on Twitter at (@jessi_pierce).