Cedar Springs Rotary Club set up The Reality Store, a financial simulation for students in Cedar Springs Public Schools. 
The Reality Store
by Tom Noreen
Last year, the Cedar Springs Rotary Club was looking for a project to engage students in the Cedar Springs Public Schools. One of the thoughts was the Reality Store, which is a financial simulation that allows students to learn more about career planning, money management and budgeting, and decision making. Students go through the process of choosing a career, receiving a “paycheck,” and learning to budget their pay to meet monthly expenses, along with unexpected expenses that everyone experiences at some point in time.
The Club’s President, Darla Falcon’s son participated in the program at Greenville. Greenville schools have conducted the exercise for many years with their 8th graders. Darla and Rotarian Denise Gates researched the program and set up a meeting with Ron Behrenwald, Director of Post-Secondary Success. While Rotary was interested in hosting the training, the school needed to buy into it. They needed to allow time in their school schedule to teach classes to prepare for the exercise. Plus, they had to set aside a day to run the actual exercise.
In November, members of the Club went to Greenville to observe their exercise in action. The teachers I spoke with were very supportive of the program as were the volunteers who manned the various stations.
Early in the year, we found out the school would like to try the exercise in March. Rotary would provide funds for the training package and get the volunteers to man the various stations such as buying a house, getting insurance, personal care requirements, food, and more. The Club also put together boards with the data on them for each station, most were done by ChoiceOne employees.
After a dry run on March 22, the Club was ready to execute on March 28. Volunteers were waiting at the Middle School at 7 AM for the doors to open so we could get things set up before the first group came through at 7:30 AM.
As an example, City  Council member Rose Powell and I led the students through “Utilities.” Water/Sewer/Trash and Gas/Electric were canned numbers based on house size and number of family members. Phone, TV and internet required students to make decisions. They had to decide how many cell phones were needed or could afford. Then they choose cable TV,  Internet or buy a packaged deal. Netflix and Hulu were additional options. Depending on their choices, they could spend as little as $50 a month up to $155. Their goal was to stay within their income based on their job.
It was a great exercise for the students and volunteers. The volunteers were pumped and ready do it again.
The Rotary Club would like to thank all the businesses and volunteers that supported the project. Without their help, it would not have been possible.