Communities in Schools Brings Financial Literacy Program to Cobb Students

“Now I see what my mom goes through!” That was the reaction of one of the students at Garrett Middle School who attended Reality U. The financial literacy program opens students’ eyes to what life will be like when they are 26 years old.

Throughout the 2019-2020 school year, students across the Cobb County School District will participate in Reality U thanks to Communities in Schools.  

Reality U is designed for eighth-graders and high school students to reinforce regular attendance, good behavior and coursework, and support fiscal health and wealth.   

“Reality U is important because through [a] budgeting simulation, students learn that their Attendance, Behavior and Coursework impacts their fiscal health and wealth,” explained Natalie Rutledge, executive director of Communities in Schools of Georgia in Marietta/Cobb County. “Studies show that 2/3 Americans can’t pass a basic test on financial literacy, 40% of American households cannot afford a $400 emergency expense, and nearly half of Americans don’t expect to have enough money to retire.”

The program gives students the opportunity to learn and practice personal finance skills. It teaches teens that their performance in school today can affect their financial future. It also helps students understand the principles of money management including credit uses and costs.  

When students at Garrett Middle School attended Reality U, their life was already laid out on paper for them. It was based on their future goals and current school GPA. The students were assigned an occupation, family status, monthly income, and credit score. For those students who planned to attend college, their future financial scenario included applicable college loan debt–another debt to subtract from their monthly income.  

The biggest shock for the students at Garrett Middle School was the cost of childcare. For those students budgeting for kids, their budgets really took a hit when they visited the childcare table.

Reality really set in when the students started subtracting all their monthly expenses from their budgets.

Just like in real life, some of the students were hit with unexpected expenses like a flat tire, car wreck, or emergency room visit.

When the Garrett students selected a place to live, they caught a glimpse of the cost of even the basic housing option, which may not meet their family needs or their expectations for a home.

The Garrett students went from table to table making housing, transportation, insurance, utilities, and entertainment choices based on their financial situation. As part of the program, the students could not let their checkbook register fall below zero as they learned to budget their choices based on their projected finances. 

Reality U highlighted how the students’ decisions in school today impact their future financial success and lifestyle.  

Communities in Schools aims to provide volunteer-driven program to most middle school and high schools in Cobb County.

Some of the Cobb Schools participating in Reality U include: 

Cobb Horizon High School Pine Mountain Middle School 
Floyd Middle School Dodgen Middle School 
Garrett Middle School Simpson Middle School 
McEachern High School Durham Middle School 
Hightower Trail Middle School Campbell Middle School 
Pebblebrook High School Lindley Middle School 
Smitha Middle School McCleskey Middle School 
Mabry Middle School Dickerson Middle School 
Cooper Middle School Wheeler High School 
McClure Middle School Osborne High School