RealityU gives students a wake-up call

Iola High School students got a lesson on financial literacy with RealityU on Friday. The simulation asked students to imagine life at age 26 and figure out how to manage their monthly budget.

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Local News

February 26, 2024 - 2:39 PM

Iola High School junior Kaylah Lampe and her mock “husband” Cortland Carson visit a booth during RealityU on Friday at IHS. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

Iola High School students visited booth after booth at RealityU on Friday. 

It’s a financial literacy simulation that asks students to imagine what life will be like at age 26. They’re given a summary of their life and a budget. They have to figure out how to pay for things such as housing, utilities, food, a phone, transportation, child care, retirement and more. 

Some students were paired together as a married couple. Some had children. 

Junior Kaylah Lampe’s eyes widened as she considered how much she and her “husband,” fellow student Cortland Carson, would need to pay for health care.

Then, a volunteer asked if they had pets. Yes, a cat and dog. They’ll need to plan for vet costs, too.

“What kind of dog do you have?” the volunteer asked.

Carson consulted a sheet of paper that listed the couple’s assets. “A Great Dane.”

“Oh, of course. The most expensive one,” Lampe said with clear frustration.

Iola High School junior Kaylah Lampe reacts after learning the cost of health insurance with her mock “husband” Cortland Carson during RealityU on Friday at IHS. The simulation offered students a chance to learn financial literacy. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

“It’s too much money. We’ve only been to three booths and already lost $2,000” out of their $7,859 combined monthly budget, she lamented. 

Under the simulation, Lampe was a registered nurse and Carson was a teacher. They had two children, ages 1 and 2. At one point, a volunteer placed a crying baby in Lampe’s arms, adding to her frustration as she tried to do math while distracted by the wailing infant. 

At the housing booth, the mock husband and wife team of Konner Larney and Brooklyn Ellis learned how much it would cost to rent a house.

“What if we go get another job and come back?” Larney asked. “Let’s do that.”

Nicole Becerra was next in line for housing. The smallest house she could rent would cost $1,100 out of her budget of $6,912. In her virtual scenario, she was a married nurse with one child.

At another booth, she chose a private daycare for her child at a cost of $730, plus $50 for a babysitter so she could have a “date night” with her virtual husband.

“I’m surprised by the prices,” she said. 

Students were required to visit about a dozen booths, make financial decisions at each one and balance their budget. They were not allowed to go into debt. If they wanted to exceed their budget, they had to get a second job or a “side gig” to make ends meet. 

Abigail Meiwes and Rio Lohman, seniors at IHS, and Jason Bauer, a community member, volunteered to advise students who needed help with financial emergencies. 

“If they run out of money, they come to us,” Meiwes said.

Konner Larney, left, and Brooklyn Ellis discuss housing options with Jaydon Morrison during RealityU.Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

“We counsel them on how to make decisions. They can get another job or sell their vehicle and get a cheaper one,” Lohman said.

Senior Ashton Hesse served as a volunteer at a booth that offered help with savings, retirement and community donations. His job was to help students understand the value of saving money at a young age, as well as the benefits of giving back to their community. 

“We want them to understand that helping your community will help generations to come,” he said. 

Students visited his booth twice, once early in the process to decide how much to set back for retirement, and again at the end to see how it all worked out.

“This will help them learn that if they put money back now, they’ll have a lot more later.”

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