More than 375 students from 10 high schools throughout Connecticut converged at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport, Conn. for the challenge of living within a budget as if they were striking out on their own Wednesday, March 31st. Over 50 volunteers from Connecticut credit unions and local businesses helped students through the paces of choosing housing, transportation, clothing, entertainment, and dozens of other life areas affecting their lives as young adults.
For some, the challenge was manageable. “I liked the way choices were priced out,” said Cornelius Harge, sophomore at Derby (Conn.) High School. “That made it easier to decide what to go with. But right now, I’m looking over my budget to see where I stand before going on.”
Students weren’t the only ones in the room energized by the activity. “We covered a lot in class,” explained Joan Coutermarsh, Personal Finance teacher, Warren Harding High School in Bridgeport, “such as maintaining and balancing a checkbook and working within a budget. But this experience really expands on that and more! It’s teaching them critical thinking and challenging their analytical sense.”
The Fair also impressed Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch. “It’s great to see these students exposed to these choices at this point in their lives,” he said. “This certainly is a crash course in reality!” And 22nd Connecticut District Senator Anthony Musto expressed it this way: “This is very exciting,” he said, “but I imagine it can be a little intimidating. I mean, these inexperienced kids are facing tough choices and making consequential decisions. It’s a great experience teaching them what options they will be facing as they enter the adult world.”
Credit Union League of Connecticut President & CEO Tony Emerson added, “Connecticut credit unions are committed to continuing to provide this opportunity for the benefit of young people because they are, after all, our future members and future community leaders.”
The Financial Reality Fair program was created cooperatively by Connecticut’s credit unions in 2008, and provides a unique interactive learning experience for high school students. By the end of the 2010-2011 school year credit unions in Connecticut will have provided this experience for more than 5,000 high school students. The Connecticut model has been adopted by credit unions through the U.S., and will be featured in an NYIB webinar—“The REAL World–Credit Union Style”—on Thursday, March 31st.