Volunteers will provide ‘reality check’ for teens

WESTFIELD-Volunteers are currently being recruited for a morning program on May 1 that will provide a reality check for teens from Gateway Regional High School and Saint Mary High School.

A Teen Reality Fair is planned from 8 to 11 a.m. at Saint Mary High School on Bartlett Street, sponsored by Junior Achievement of Western Massachusetts.

“A Teen Reality Fair is a fair where high school students role-play a 25-year-old who has to make decisions about money based on his or her chosen job,” said Megan Beliveau, director of programs and special events at Junior Achievement.

Beliveau explained that students are given a salary, correlating to the job he or she chose, and a credit score. Each student will visit up to 16 booths, including transportation, housing, education and training, entertainment, food and nutrition, clothing, furniture, insurance, loan center, savings and retirement, charitable giving and banking, and make decisions on how to budget one’s monthly salary.

“This is an annual event for JA,” said Beliveau, noting that similar programs are taking place this month in Chicopee and Northampton.

Beliveau is seeking adults who will assist students as they maneuver through the various booths, helping teens select the best budget option at their booth based on their income, provide information about additional living expenses, and record and initial the cost of choices on spending plans.

A reality check wheel will be among the highlights during a Teen Reality Fair May 1. (Submitted photo)

“The money behaviors students have and develop today will have an impact on their futures,” said Beliveau. “Poor money management skills and behaviors could prevent someone from purchasing a car, house, or many of the other things someone may want for his or her family.”

Beliveau added that understanding and experiencing the power of money can play an important role in learning how to manage that power to achieve goals.

“Through the Teen Reality Fair, we want to start students on the right path to learning the skills they need to navigate their financial future,” said Beliveau. “Volunteers help start students on that path.”

The deadline to register to volunteer is April 25 with training to be determined by each volunteer. Training can take place over the phone, via email, or in person. Beliveau hopes to also have a short training session on May 1 prior to the start of the event. Each booth will also have a “cheat sheet” to assist volunteers.

“Students need practice, skills, and knowledge to navigate their financial future successfully,” said Beliveau. “They need help in the form of mentors and volunteers.”

Beliveau added that the reality fair offers a first-hand, in-person, real life experience for students who soon, if not already, will need to make decisions about money.

“The experience and skills the students take from the Teen Reality Fair, as well as the in-class lessons and online simulation we offer to each school, helps lay the foundation for the students’ financial futures,” said Beliveau.

For more information on volunteering, contact Beliveau at (413) 747-7670 or via email to [email protected].

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