As part of its mission to support financial literacy, Missouri Credit Union Charitable Foundation (MCUCF) partnered with the Missouri Council on Economic Education to bring financial reality fairs to Missouri high school students.
MCUCF hosted 20 reality fairs during the past 18 months, providing financial education to more than 1,000 Missouri high school students. MCUCF’s last two reality fairs of the academic school year were held in the St. Louis area at Pattonville High School on April 25 and Riverview Gardens High School on May 8.
“The Missouri Credit Union Charitable Foundation proudly assists credit unions in efforts to increase financial literacy in Missouri communities,” says Maria Langston, MCUCF executive director. “In particular, the financial reality fairs provide credit unions an opportunity to inspire future generations to develop positive financial habits early on.”
For those not familiar with reality fairs, they are real-life budgeting simulations for high school students. Each student is given a packet that outlines a life scenario, including occupation, salary, debt, family, and bills. Students must complete a list in the packet by visiting various booths that represent different scenarios, such a buying a car or purchasing a home. Credit unions or local businesses volunteer to man these booths, and they offer financial advice and guidance to students during the reality fairs.
Credit union volunteers are key to the success of these reality fairs. At Pattonville High School, staffers from Vantage, Electro Savings and 1st Financial Federal credit unions helped more than 125 students learn the importance of budgeting and saving throughout the day on April 25.
At the Riverview Garden High School reality fair, volunteers from Electro Savings Credit Union and Vantage Credit Union assisted nearly 50 students from 8-10 a.m. on May 8.
Grant Black, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and a member of Council on Economic Education, explained that reality fairs provide students with a unique perspective on future career options and higher education.
“Financial reality fairs expose them to the benefits of different types of occupations and the importance of going to school,” says Black. “Through this program, they can actually see how pursuing a higher education can help them obtain higher income.”
The reality fairs reinforce lessons learned in personal finance classes. Pamela Falls, a Career Education teacher at Riverview Gardens High School, explained students need hands-on financial scenarios to fully comprehend what it takes to survive in the real world.
“We want our students to participate in activities that include real-world issues that help them understand what it will actually take for them to maintain a certain lifestyle outside of school. It’s imperative that they know how to responsibly handle the money they earn,” says Falls. “I think this provides them an excellent opportunity to see how much bills cost. If they happen to start out with a lower income, they learn how to budget what they have.”
MCUCF is currently planning reality fairs for the upcoming 2014-2015 academic school year.
Questions? Please contact Maria Langston, MCUCF executive director, via email or phone, 314.542.1344
Caption (top): Kenny DeShields, Social Media specialist for Vantage Credit Union, tries to sell electronics to a Pattonville High School student at the "mall."
Caption (bottom): Lisa Farnen, vice president of Marketing for Electro Savings Credit Union, explains the importance of budgeting and saving to students at Riverview Gardens High School.