Welcome to the Real World! Reality City 2010 was a huge success. More than 105 north Louisiana youth in foster care and Office of Juvenile Justice care attended the event.

“All my expenses cost more than I ever really thought!”
“It makes me want to save just in case of unexpected incidents.”
“It helped me learn how to balance my money more.”
“I realize that I definitely need a college education to live well.”

These are just a few of the comments expressed by young people who participated in the Reality City program provided by the Louisiana United Methodist Children and Family Services, Inc.’s Life Skills Training Center.

The Welcome to the Real World! program consists of four parts: career exploration, expenditure decision making, money management, and choice evaluation. The program is an active hands-on activity which gives young people the opportunity to explore career opportunities and make lifestyle and budget choices similar to those that adults face on a daily basis.

In this simulation of the real world, participants are to assume that they have completed basic educational requirements for their chosen career. They are independent with no financial support from family or others. Once they have chosen an occupation, they receive a monthly salary. They then proceed through the Reality City activity, determining a savings amount, and spending their “salary” on the necessary and luxury items that reflect the career and lifestyle they have chosen.

Each participant receives a sample packet of checks, a deposit slip, and a checking account register. The “net” salary figure is deposited into the checking account and recorded in the checkbook register. Throughout the activity, the participants keep track of their finances by recording purchases and payments in their checkbook and then balancing it. Whether they have adequate funds or run out of money, they continue through the activity and finish with either a positive or negative balance.

Some of the spending choices they will have to make are:
HOUSING – renting vs. purchasing, house vs. apartment, etc.

TRANSPORTATION – The participants choose from a selection of options regarding new or used autos. They also figure in a predetermined cost for gasoline, oil changes, etc.

INSURANCE – Renters, Car, Medical, Life


GROCERIES – The grocery cost is only for food purchased at the grocery store and prepared at home. Their debit card is used to pay for groceries.

FURNITURE – Participants select the amount of furniture needed that corresponds to their income level.

ENTERTAINMENT – Participants are offered many choices: concerts, eating out, professional sporting events, etc.

LIFE HAPPENS- This expenditure or income offers participants a view of how life can throw a curve ball when least expected. They choose a card from a large deck of “chances” that represent some of the unexpected expenses and income often encountered in adult daily life: “You received a speeding ticket, pay $75;” “You had an accident and have to pay the $250 deductible.” After drawing a card, the participants either write a check for the stated amount or add the amount to their checking account. Participants may also have to do a field sobriety test using “drunk” simulation goggles after being suspected of driving while intoxicated. Some participants may draw a card indicating a diagnosis of HIV and have to pay the medical costs related to treatment of a sexually transmitted disease.

PAY DAY LOAN- Participants are given the option of taking out a payday loan if they cannot afford what they need. The participants learn after completing the module that if they chose a payday loan the interest rates were so high they may never be out of debt and could have potentially damaged their credit.

The participants go through a processing exercise after completing Reality City program and are asked how they did. Some will finish with a positive checking account balance, while others have a negative balance. Participants must understand that a negative balance (overdrawn account) is not permitted in real life! If they had a negative balance, they consider the choices they made and discuss what alternatives might be taken.

The LUMCFS Life Skills Staff (Angie Thomas, Casey Morace and Teprika Parks) would like to extend a special thank you to all who volunteered their time and resources to make this event possible: Children’s Home employees for their time and help, the Recreation staff for set up and all day assistance, Don Johnson and Chris Willis for cooking, the City of Ruston Utilities Dept., US Army representatives, Ruston Police Department, Jack Allen (Cupio Media), State Office representatives Bernadine Barber and Carmen Spooner, and staff that transported the youth. This event could not have been the success it was without everyone involved.

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