HOUSTON – How many kids really know what their parents go through each month trying to pay the bills and keep a roof over their head?
Welcome to the Real World gave more than 315 Houston High School students a taste of what it is like to be on their own, pay rent, make a car payment, pay for childcare, groceries and all the other expenses of life.
“This is the second year we have hosted Welcome to the Real World,” said Teresa Moore, of the Houston School of Science and Technology. “It was a big hit last year and we were glad to bring it back this year. I think it really opens these kids eyes to what the real world is really all about.”
Welcome to the Real World starts with kids pulling a salary out of a hat. Then they are sent to more than a dozen stations where they have decide how big a house they want, what kind of car they want to drive, how many kids they have, buy groceries, clothes, pay the light bill and pay taxes.
“Most of these kids don’t realize how quickly their money goes through their fingers,” said Mary Linda Moore of the Home Science department at Mississippi State University. “One of the things that really makes me smile is watching them buy all these things and then go to the station where they have to pay taxes. They always do that last and they don’t realize that money come off the top at the very first.”
Students are allowed to go back and adjust their expenses, such as buying a smaller car or home.
“They learn to juggle their money and we make them balance their books at the end of the month,” said Moore. “They also learn that the more kids they have the more expenses they have.”
There is also a “That’s Life” station.
“At that booth the kids pull a card from a stack,” said Moore. “It can be something bad like a medical bill or the transmission goes out. It can also be something good like a pay raise, a tax rebate or a gift from a friend.”
Houston High School teachers and Chickasaw County Extension Service employees help explain options to students and teach them how life really works.
Teresa Moore also pointed out the students fill out a form before and after they do Welcome to the Real World to evaluate what they have learned.
“Nearly all of them say on the front end that their parents are not being honest with them when they say they don’t have any money,” said Moore. “After they do Welcome to the Real World they realize where the money goes and momma and daddy have responsibilities.”
Teresa Moore said most parents don’t share home finance information with their children and paying the bills can be a struggle when kids go off to college or get out on their own.
“This is an exercise in money management and we have a little fun, too,” said Moore. “These kids learn a lot about what they will be responsible for once they are on their own.”