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SEMS students get dose of reality
Sean Dearson, assistant manager of operations at Kroger Marketplace in Rincon, helps students buy groceries during the Feb. 14 Reality Fair at South Effingham Middle School. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

GUYTON — On Feb. 14, eighth graders at South Effingham Middle School got a taste of the real world. The students participated in the annual Reality Fair, a tool used to teach financial responsibility.

Sixth and seventh graders, meanwhile, got to hear local people share information about their jobs during a career fair.

During the Reality Fair, students were given “salaries” based on their grade point average. The salaries were based on statistics for a non-high school graduate, a high school graduate, an associate/technical degree owner and bachelor’s degree recipient.

“All the kids had at least a high school diploma because their GPA is above 70 for their whole middle school career,” school counselor Diana Virgil said. “I was very impressed with that. That goes with our high academic standards here.”

After receiving a “paycheck” and learning about taxes and the difference between gross and net pay, the students made a circuit around the gymnasium floor to find housing, food, transporation, utilities, insurance, etc. They stopped at various stations manned by actual real estate agents, car salesmen, bankers and grocery store officials.

At the end of the circuit, the students received candy bars — a Payday for coming in under their monthly budget and a Zero for spending more money than they had.

“I got a Payday bar,” Alexis Camacho said execitedly. “I had $1,320.79 left over after purchasing everything. I bought the cheapest house because I thought it looked cute and I don’t need a big one because I don’t have a family. I was going to rent but renting was more so I decided to buy.

“I also got the highest insurance because that is a good thing to do.”

Camacho, who started with $3,081, put 10 percent of her earnings in a savings account.

“Then I went to the automotive part and got the cheapest car — a Toyota Corolla — which is funny because that’s going to be my car from my mom,” Camacho said.

Camacho was extremely conservative with her entainment spending. She shelled out only $3 for a Red Box movie.

“I don’t really go out that much anway,” she said.

Virgil said the Reality Fair is an eye-opening experience for many students.

“The whole point of the Reality Fair is to combine their academic and realistic goals together,” she said. “They learn if they are not doing what they are supposed to be doing by the time they get to high school it can hurt them in the end — they might not get a high school diploma. We are preparing our eighth graders for the ninth grade so that they will take it seriously.

“Usually, the ninth grade is the hardest year for most students.

The career fair featured a wide range of job options. Small businesses, major corporations and the pubic sector were represented among the 26 guests.