Mt. Juliet Middle School Counselor Jade Bowman knows too well the school’s 544 eighth-graders will enter adulthood in the blink of an eye. So she wanted to give them a jolt of reality now, rather than leaving them shell-shocked when adulthood rolls around.
Bowman recalled a former program called “Reality Check” and was thrilled when MJMS Principal Leigh Anne Rainey wanted to revive it.
The new two-day program, “On My Own,” saw every eighth-grader take part. It was sponsored by the Family and Consumer Sciences division of the University of Tennessee Extension Service.
“Students were given an assigned occupation, income and family scenario and worked through a month of expenses using a register worksheet while learning how to balance both credits and debits as they traveled through ‘adulthood,'” Bowman explained. “Students experienced a reality revelation as it took many ‘debits’ to survive life.”
The at-times perplexed students went through such stations as transportation, real estate, groceries, banking, financial aid, clothing, utilities, childcare and even “curve balls,” which hit every adult.
“Visiting the Life Curve Ball station made me think of how one unexpected event could throw off your goals,” student Madi McNeese observed.
“All the volunteers enjoyed seeing the students work through stressful situations and apply it to real-life concepts,” Bowman said. “Not only was the impact significant, but observing the learning curve was powerful. Seeing the volunteers contribute their most meaningful wisdom and expertise leaves a legacy, a footstep to follow and falls true to the theories of psychological development.
After the “reality revelation,” Bowman spoke to students about being desperate in times of financial stress and how poor choices can lead to credit card debt and unhealthy coping skills like alcohol and drugs.
Station staffers included Extension volunteers, Wilson County Schools supervisors, MJMS parent volunteers, past and current members of Leadership Wilson, teachers and members of the community — totaling 40-plus volunteers in all.