Program offers reality lesson on money

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Our ag/4-H Extension agent, Christin Herbst, worked with the Reality Store last Friday at Carroll County Middle School, assisting guidance counselor Beth Wallace and other CCMS staff.

Due to a prior commitment, I was unable to help this year, so I’m pleased that one of us could. The 4-H Reality Store introduces youth to the “realities” associated with adulthood – provision of food, clothing, shelter, etc., for a family and how these relate to career choices. Upon arrival at the simulation, students receive the equivalent of one month’s salary for their chosen career. They then go through the “store” purchasing housing, transportation, child care and other necessities.

“Reality Store helps youth realize that their career choice, and the education required for it, relates to your lifestyle available as an adult,” according to Martha Welch, Extension associate for 4-H/youth development in the UK College of Agriculture. “It’s a way for students to see firsthand how money for necessary items and those extra luxuries must balance with what is available as monthly income.”

Reality Store works with community business representatives invited to sit at tables, or “stores,” at the school. Each “store” provides a specific service, such as banking, groceries, insurance, transportation and utilities. Students are assigned a career based on their educational aspirations. They also receive a family status – for instance, “married with two children.” With their monthly “paychecks” in hand, students go from table to table visiting each store to purchase goods and services.

Those who spend wisely may have money left over at the end of the month; students who make lower salaries or make expensive purchases barely break even, or may even go bankrupt. For those who lose everything, there’s an “S.O.S.” station where advice and options are offered.

Some students are unhappy with their careers or income. It’s all just make-believe, but it carries a serious message.

“The idea is not to tell them which careers are best, but to teach youth that they need to plan ahead for what they want to do with their life,” Welch said. “A minimum-wage job may sound like a lot of money when someone is 14, but we want them to ask themselves if minimum wage will meet their needs when they’re 30.”

Reality Store has operated in Kentucky for many years, and its popularity is growing. It’s one of several programs supported by Kentucky 4-H and UK Cooperative Extension that helps youngsters learn necessary skills for employment — a top priority under guidelines recommended by the secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills.

“Kentucky 4-H helps youth prepare for life,” Welch said. “Reality Store is helping them do this. It’s a wake-up call at a time when they can do something about it.”

Learn with us

The Carroll County Extension office is offering two “Learn with us” food-related programs this month: 

Seafood Know-How. The first is “Seafood Know-How” at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 17, will be conducted by Patty Poor, Grant County family and consumer sciences agent. She will provide nutritional information, advice on purchasing food and cooking methods, which will also be demonstrated.

Fish provides a very important protein for our diets and many of us do not eat the recommended amount. I will also have additional information and recipes. 

Easy Freezer Meals. Everyone has such a busy lifestyle today, running from work to school, meetings, and, for those with children, transporting them from activity to activity. Join us as Kathy Roesel-Byrnes, Kenton County family and consumer sciences agent, teaches a session at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 24, to help you learn how to prepare “freezer meals” ahead that will be available quickly for healthy and easy homemade meals for your family.   


Grace Angotti is Carroll Co. Extension agent for family and consumer sciences. Call her at (502) 732-7030 or send e-mail to gangotti@uky.edu.