The 4-H Reality Store was held Dec. 10 and 11. This 4-H Program in Harlan County gives all freshmen a sense of the real world. They each are transported forward in time until they are 25 years old.
Students enter the welcome table where they draw from one to four children. Each is assigned an occupation and monthly salary based on their current grade point average. The students come into the Extension Depot where tables have been set up representing the stops that they will need to make this month.
The next stop is the tax table where they pay the taxes due on their income. Next stop is the bank where they make a savings deposit if they wish, and start to deal with this month’s expenses. They then proceed to housing, utilities, clothing, transportation, medical expenses, child care, insurance and others.
Each of the choices and expenses had to be consistent with their income and family. No fancy two seat sport cars for store clerks making minimum wage with four kids to support. At groceries they could select from several monthly menus. Here most of the students ended up picking the basic low cost selection while admitting that they would prefer better. Some of them discovered that they would need to visit the supplemental income table for second or even third jobs to make ends meet.
The experience seemed to let the students see the value of improving their grades now so that they can go further in their education and be qualified for a better, higher paying job. It was clear that the experience had an effect when you listened to them. One was heard to say with a tone of desperation in his voice “I need more money. How can I get more money?” He knew that he wasn’t going to make it if he didn’t.
High school freshman, Emersyn Noah, stated, “The Reality Store taught me that the decisions I make now determine how successful I will be in the future.” Carter Barnes said, “It isn’t as fun as you think to be grown-up. You have to work hard to make ends meet. I will work hard to keep up my good grades so I can get a better job.” “It’s all about budgeting,” according to Killian Ledford, “Don’t spend all your money in one place.”
After attending the Reality Store, many students related that they would wait to have children and work to make better grades. According to Raymond Cox, 4-H/youth development agent, this is the 18th year for the Reality Store for Harlan County 4-H.