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Reality U is back at Great Bend Middle School
COURTESY PHOTO Pictured is a scene from a previous United Way of Central Kansas Reality U at Great Bend Middle School. This year’s event is planned for Wednesday.

United Way of Central Kansas is bringing Reality U back to Great Bend Middle School for the fifth year on Oct. 13. With the support of numerous sponsors and the Great Bend Middle School Booster Club, UWCK is setting out to teach this year’s eighth graders about personal finance in a fun and engaging way, said UWCK Executive Director Gaila Demel. 

“This event actively engages the students to help them understand the importance of education to their financial future,” she said. “It also engages the community in supporting student learning and developing their understanding of the world of work.”

These lucky students will imagine their life as 26-year-olds and complete an online lifestyle survey. The survey information, along with their current grade point average, is entered into a software program that links their answers to a unique scenario that is individualized for each student and distributed to them the day of the event.

Each scenario includes the student’s monthly income, credit card debt, student loan information, as well as marital and family status. The students are to transfer this information into their student passport (similar to a checkbook register) and then make purchases at the twelve booths that represent services and/or products that adults typically must purchase or consider each month.

These booths include purchasing a car, renting or buying a home, utilities, insurance, phone and fun, retirement and loan repayment, childcare, clothing, and groceries — all the necessities in life to run a household.

Students have the opportunity to learn how their decisions impact their bottom line as they try to make decisions that won’t result in their check register falling below zero, Demel said. Sometimes they must return a “purchase” and make a different decision. 

Throughout the day, students also go into breakout sessions to dive deeper into how the choices they make now will impact their future. These sessions include The Cost of Delinquency, with Juvenile Services; The Reality of High School, with Great Bend High School counselors; The Reality After High School, with Haley Ruble and Davis Jimenez; College Headstart with Barton Community College; Youth Crew with Marissa Woodmansee; and the Realities of High School with a video from GBHS students. 

“This event would not be possible without the support of our sponsors,” Demel said. These include 10th Avenue Boutique, Buckle, City of Great Bend, CPCS-Central Plains Computer Service, Credit Union of America, Farmers Bank & Trust, First Kansas Bank, Marmie Auto Group, MPIRE Realty, Nex-Tech, Spectrum CPA Partners LLC, and University of Kansas Health Systems-Great Bend. 

UWCK community partner, Great Bend Children’s Learning Center, will be working the Childcare booth. Numerous individuals and organizations also assist with this program by speaking throughout the day to the students in the breakout sessions and volunteering their time to help with booths. The Great Bend Middle School Booster Club will be providing lunch for all the volunteers.

“Reality U is an amazing community impact project for United Way,” Demel said. “The support we receive from local businesses as sponsors and the ‘hand-raisers’ who volunteer their time that day is incredibly humbling.”

She said it comes together due to the partnership they have with USD 428. “This year, in particular, we are so grateful Great Bend Middle School will allow us to spend a day helping our youth start thinking about their future. It is always fun to see their excitement when they see this glimpse into their life.”