Students Get Reality Check

Some local students are learning important lessons about life. This is being done through sessions that are sponsored by the Meridian Junior Auxiliary. The group kicked off its Reality Check series at Meridian High School Tuesday.

One by one ninth grade students filed into a room to get a reality check.

As part of the exercise, each student was given a sheet of paper which listed his or her occupation, salary and family status.

"I'm a bricklayer and I've got one child and she's two years old," said MHS 9th grader, Darius Arrington.

As a bricklayer, Darius' salary was less than $30,000 a year.

"I make $26,300 a year. I don't think that's a lot of money. Well, maybe it is a little bit," said Darius.

As with other students, Darius soon learned a harsh reality.

With each student required to go to the different booths to secure housing, insurance, buy food, clothes, and pay for utilities and child care, there wasn't much left for many of them to deposit into a savings account at the makeshift bank.

"At the grocery store I wanted to buy name brand foods, but I decided to go with non-name brands because they were cheaper," said Darius.

"They think they can afford everything," said Meridian Junior Auxiliary member, Hallie Swindoll. "They're going to be living the high life, buying the BMW and a huge house and then they've got to go pay their insurance and they're coming back and buying a bus pass."

"My biggest surprise was the groceries! I thought they were going to cost like $100 and they were $425," says MHS student Kryslin Brown.

As part of the process, the students pulled cards which represented common expenses that are often unexpected and caused by things such as: accidents, illness or school fees. Among those cards were some that accounted for the costs of buying gifts and others which represented money won in a lottery.

"We do this because we want to educate the kids," said Swindoll. "We want them to know that you get better jobs when you finish high school and college; you get paid more money so you can have a better quality of life. So, we just kind of want to encourage them and prepare them for the real world."

This is the 5th year that the Meridian Junior Auxiliary has sponsored the Reality Check initiative.

So far this year, sessions have been held at West Lauderdale and Lamar high schools. Auxiliary members will be at Meridian High for at least two more days. Southeast High School is the next site where the sessions will be held.