Nearly 200 high school students from across southwest Michigan got a dose of reality on Friday as Midwest Energy Cooperative, Southwestern Michigan College and Greater Niles Community Federal Credit Union teamed up for “It’s Reality,” an interactive personal financial management exercise for high school students. 

The half-day program offered a practical, hands-on experience designed to teach students about budgeting and learning to live within their financial means. Each student was assigned a career and corresponding salary based on a general area of interest, and tasked with navigating a series of stations where they made decisions for basic needs and lifestyle choices, including housing, transportation, utilities, student loans, clothing, fitness and pets. Like the popular Game of Life, choices and chance helped students understand some of the financial realities of a post-high school world.

“Today’s students are provided with great academic information and resources, and our goal was to supplement that with an engaging interactive experience to bring those classroom lessons to life in a fun and meaningful way,” said Lori Ruff, event organizer and community relations specialist at Midwest Energy Cooperative. “This is an exciting way that we can work in partnership with the greater community to support the next generation of business and community leaders.”

Students from Brandywine, Cassopolis, Dowagiac, Lawton and Marcellus schools participated in the event. Additional volunteer support was provided by Integrity Realty, Kemner Iott Benz, Chemical Bank, 5/3 Bank, C Wimberley Automotive, Honor Credit Union and AEP.