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Reality Store teaches costs of living to area seventh-graders

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Seventh-graders figure out what they owe in insurance and transportation during Reality Store day at Shelbyville Middle School.
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Middle school students crowd around the utilities table to find out how much they owe during Thursday’s Reality Store day. All five school districts attended the event and 588 students participated.

By ROSS FLINT - rflint@shelbynews.com

The day devoted to allowing local seventh graders to peek into their future is expanding beyond Shelby County.

Reality Store, which started in 1997, has become a staple in Shelby County. Once snow gives way to spring, seventh graders from around the county make their way to Shelbyville Middle School to learn what paths they can take once they are out of school.

“Things are going real good,” said Etheleen Swango, chairman of Business of Professional Women District 2 on Thursday morning. “We started in 1997 and it gets bigger every year.”

For the first time this year, the Business of Professional Women held Reality Stores in Muncie and Richmond, and will have another in Indianapolis.

On Thursday, students from Shelbyville, Triton Central, Southwestern, Waldron and Morristown visited a number of stations inside the Shelbyville Middle School gymnasium, where they learned what to expect of adulthood. The students selected careers based on their grades, meaning students who received better grades had more opportunities to create a better lifestyle.

Each station was set up for them to learn the variety of costs that come in life, from utilities to medical bills to clothes and entertainment. There were booths on child care, housing, taxes and student loans and insurance and transportation that provided insight on what they could expect in their life based on their grades.

“We want to teach the basics of life,” Swango said. “Needs (come) before wants, and we want them to save on each paycheck.”

Because of last year’s experience, Gayle Henderson of the Business of Professional Women said they decided to double the housing station. She said that station in particular always had a backlog of students waiting for their turn.

Carolyn Austin, also of the BPA, said she had a teacher tell her they plan to talk to their students about the Reality Store and what they learned.

“Very smooth,” she said when asked how the morning was going. “The kids are getting through pretty quickly.”