Students dressed for their chosen occupations at Reality Town, held Friday, Feb. 22 at the Grand County Middle School. Winners of the costume contest stand with Mayor Dave Sakrison. From left to right: Ellie Kelly, Britney Keogh, Chris Hren and Damian Pogue, all in seventh grade. [Courtesy photo Grand County Middle School]

Students at Grand County Middle School were able to experience what it’s like to have an occupation and how important that occupation is in their lives on Friday, Feb. 22. From buying groceries, to buying houses, Reality Town is the experience of a lifetime for students.

Reality Town is an annual event at the middle school. It started in 2004 just after Melinda Snow became the principal. Each year, more than 200 students and 60 plus community volunteers participate in this real-life situation.

Each student gets to pick an occupation that corresponds to their current academic performance in school. If the student has a good grade point average, they get a better choice at selecting a good paying occupation.

After each student was able to choose their occupation, they received a scenario on which their lives were based. They received scenarios such as married couple with two kids; one working parent. Students also had anywhere from one to three kids. Some also had spouses who were still going to school.

Mackenzie Bleggi found that she wasn’t able to pay the bills being a cosmetologist/hairstylist.

“My husband doesn’t do anything for the family! When I grow up I better marry someone who is rich and not lazy,” said eighth grader Bleggi said. “I went bankrupt!”

Students found that the money didn’t go as far as they wished, but others found that they had plenty left over.

Kenyon Birdwell, with the occupation of Nuclear Engineer making $5,383 a month, tried to spend his leftovers.

“Even though I’m cheap, I had $1,200 dollars left over,” he said.

He was disappointed when the Pet Shop wouldn’t let him buy a tiger with the leftover money. He instead put it into savings.

“I don’t like reality; it’s hard,” said Emylee Slagstad.

Most students learned early that having a good paying occupation is far easier and makes it possible to buy more things such as entertainment and communications.

“It increases student’s awareness of the financial responsibilities they will encounter in the future. They realize how expensive children are, which is a good lesson for them to learn right now so they can know how much they are costing their parents,” said Melinda Snow, GCMS principal. “It’s a great learning opportunity for kids.”