Business participation hit record numbers this year at the third annual "Reality Store" adventure, held Wednesday for Mexico Middle School eighth-graders and Mexico High School juniors.
The Reality Store is a joint venture hosted by MMS and the Mexico Area Chamber of Commerce to provide a decision-making experience addressing individual and family budgeting. The event invited 45 businesses and 75 business professionals – 37 of whom were first-timers.
The range of professions represented included daycare providers, city utilities, grocery, cell phone, real estate and insurance agents and more.
A total of 170 juniors and 150 eighth-graders took part in the challenge.
"Business participation has grown big time. We didn't even have to recruit this year. People came to us to take part in it, and yes, that feels good," said Dana Keller, Chamber executive director. "I think everyone is beginning to see the importance of the event, and the role it can play in the future."
Some participants suggested holding the event twice a year.
"The concept is awesome," said first-timer Melodie Rahmeyer, new owner of Garden Gate Florists. "Both the students and the businesses seem to gain so much."
Each student is given a job card that includes an annual salary for the position he/she had in the simulation. The Reality Store started with classroom instruction, teaching the students how to figure their monthly net income, or the amount of money they would have remaining, to cover monthly expenses. Wednesday's activity allowed the students to purchase their needed services from businesses.
This included their housing, transportation, insurance, food, and even childcare if applicable. They were able to set aside money for their "wants" such as cable, cell phone, Internet, pets and leisure activities as well. Each was required to save and give to a charity of their choice, and many were also challenged with unexpected expenses that impacted their monthly budget, such as traffic tickets.
Before leaving the Reality Store, each was expected to balance income with their outgoing expenses.
"Overall, it was a great experience that taught me about budgeting money and the need for a career plan," said MHS junior Shelby Love. "And more appreciation for what my parents are challenged with."
MMS Guidance Counselor Darlene Shopher, the local founder of the event, said the school district and chamber have a few new directions they would like to take with The Reality Store in the future, but no decisions have been made. From this year forward every student in the MHS system who graduates will have gone through the program.
For more information about The Reality Store or future participation, call the Chamber at 581-2765, or Shopher at 581-4664.