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Resource One's Reality Fair Provides Financial Education to Youth
Friday, October 17, 2014 6:55 AM

Far too few students learn life skills that will ultimately lead to their personal financial success. Yet, more and more credit is extended to our youth, and educators and parents may not have the educational training or life experiences to guide them into financially healthy adulthood. Resource One Credit Union realized the gap could be bridged and decided to make a difference by obtaining the CU 4 Reality Fair tool and offering it to their community.

The Reality Fair is a unique, interactive roadmap that helps students understand the budgeting challenges and financial choices they will soon be making. The program focuses on middle and high school students; however, colleges are also discovering the value for their student population.

As an initiative of Cornerstone Credit Union League's REAL Solutions, Cornerstone offers the CU 4 Reality Fair tool to REAL Solutions credit unions and chapters as a complimentary member benefit. They are able to do this with support received from the Cornerstone Foundation, the Friends of Consumer Freedom, and the National Credit Union Foundation.

Resource One took the CU 4 Reality Fair tool and expanded its scope and depth to meet the needs of their target audience. They delivered two Reality Fairs recently to college-level students—the first on Oct. 1 at Northlake College in Irving, Texas, and the second on Oct. 3 at Eastfield College in Mesquite, Texas.

The CU 4 Reality Fair was designed to promote these initiatives:

  • Provide students with an introduction to basic financial education skills before entering the workforce.
  • Provide students with guidance in career selection to assure that their desired lifestyles can be supported by their career choices.
  • Provide an opportunity for credit unions to lead and support financial education initiatives in partnership with educators and businesses within their communities.
  • Provide educators with a ready-to-use curriculum that is easily adapted for various settings.

Resource One Financial Educator Phillip Crocker said, "Basically, we are taking students into the world of financial decisions by letting them see, touch, and experience budgeting and spending on their own terms in a simulated real-world setting."

Through the creation of personal budgets and the allocation of dollars for food, clothing, housing, utilities, transportation expenses, and more, the Reality Fair students begin to develop an appreciation for money to build on in the future. "This hands-on experience also helps support financial discussions in the home setting," Crocker said.

How It Works

Students choose a career before entering into the Reality Fair, and they receive a budget associated with the average annual income for a starting position within that field. Students will then visit each station within the Reality Fair and make decisions along the way according to their needs, wants, or desires—the whole point of the hands-on exercise.

After visiting each station, students will go to a computer station and compare how they actually did according to their budget. They'll be able to see if, based upon their spending decisions, they would be living within their means or not. If the students end up in the "red" they will need to go back and make some different decisions.

Volunteers at each computer station will provide guidance and suggest changes, as needed. In the end, students must balance their monthly budgets or, at the very least, get out of the red.

Cornerstone's REAL Solutions Director Paula Upchurch, who facilitates the CU 4 Reality Fair programs, said, "I want to thank Phillip for his dedication to education and to the CU 4 Reality Fairs. His enthusiasm for making financial education available to young people is one reason programs like these are so successful."

The results of Resource One's efforts can be seen in just some of the positive comments they received from participants and teachers:

Wednesday, October 1
Northlake College, Irving, Texas

"Thank you to you and your awesome team for today's Reality Fair. Drum roll please—177 students went through the fair. It is growing!"

M. Anne Brown, M.A.
TRiO/SSS, North Lake College

Friday, October 3
Eastfield College, Mesquite, Texas

"Whew! What a turn-out! Today, we had 181 participants—that is, 181 students experienced the REALITY of how to allocate their personal spending and perhaps alter career choices! Many stated they learned a lesson from today's experience. This event would not be possible without my wonderful students and the employees of Resource One Credit Union. Thank you, Thank you!"

Professor R. L. Brown, Instructor/Coordinator
Eastfield College Accounting Department


The CU 4Reality Financial Education Fair was developed the Financial Literacy Education Committee of America’s Credit Union Museum in conjunction with the New Hampshire Credit Union League. REAL Solutions stands for Relevant, Effective, Asset-building, Loyalty-producing solutions. To learn more about REAL Solutions, please visit www.cornerstoneleague.coop/real_solutions.html.