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'Reality Town' shows sophomores budgeting for the real world

Reality Town

El Paso High sophomores on Wednesday got a glimpse into the real world when they were given a monthly budget and asked to juggle everyday life challenges on an income based on their education prospects.

The Reality Town workshop is meant to help students realize the value of an education and the impact a lack of preparation will have on their life. 

Each student received a paystub with their monthly salary based on their career choice, which were options determined by their GPA. It described their family scenario and if they carried health insurance. Some were married with children, some saddled with student loan debt and others faced different financial obstacles. Reality Town helped El Paso High create each student’s individual scenarios.

“They pretty much are learning how to balance a one-month budget for paying bills,” said El Paso High graduation coach Melissa Arreola. “The lessons teach them how to budget and what is important to purchase first so they will have stability.”

Among the 19 booths the students visited included utilities, dentist office, housing, car insurance, health and dental insurance, child care, entertainment and home improvement. At the booths, the students would pick a card and find out their fate. At the medical booth, some students discovered they had strep throat, costing them $25 for an office visit if they had insurance and $150 without. Volunteers at each booth deducted the amount from their checking to account for the payment.

“At 10th grade, they’re starting to get jobs and savings accounts and it’s starting to hit home,” Arreola said.

The lesson definitely hit home for Mario Reyes, a photographer with three kids who earns $2,700 a month. His wife brings home $500.

“I learned a lot of things about taking care of money because I didn’t get too much,” Reyes said.

For Nohemi Moran, her paycheck gave her a little more financial freedom for her and her two children. She earns $5,000 a month as an orthodontist.

“It gives you a clear idea of how it works,” Moran said. 

Austin High graduation coach Flor Rosales, who volunteered for the El Paso High event, loved the opportunity to work with Reality Town.

“I think the name says it all ‘Reality Town.’ It gives kids a dose of reality,” said Rosales, who worked in the medical office. “The way they map it out helps them understand that they are limited by their income. Since their income is matched to GPA, they’re able to see everything that they do in school does correlate to real life.”

Check out EPISD Live's coverage of Reality Town