|Review Photo/Sue Tone|
Alaina Rowitsch, seventh-grader at Heritage Middle School in Chino Valley, uses a calculator to figure out how much she will spend on entertainment each month with one child. Alaina’s hobbies are arts and crafts and sewing; she will make her child’s clothes to save money, she said.
When a seventh-grader gets handed three children at age 28, does she know how to make ends meet? Can she afford a house, a car and childcare?
For about 30 middle school girls, walking through such a scenario was a shocking experience at the daylong Dreams to Reality event on April 6 at Prescott College. Members of several Girl Scouts of America troops across Yavapai County and girls from local middle schools took a shot at adulthood where they encountered a realistic future.
Patricia Mann, organizer of the event, said the purpose of the day was to open girls' eyes to the economic realities of life so they can make wise decisions based on realistic expectations.
"Choices that they make at this early stage of their lives set the course of their paths," Mann said. "They need to be aware and informed and to know that it's normal not to know what career they want. Their job at this point is to explore, try new things, talk to people, volunteer and learn."
In the morning's segment, Reality Store, the girls chose a potential career and corresponding salary, then reached into a bag and picked out a slip of paper indicating ages of their child or children.
The next station, taxes, brought disbelief.
"We're the only booth where they don't have a choice. Before they do anything, we take out taxes," said Joyce Chapman and Gretta Larson, former bankers and members of American Association of University Women. They said if they had time, they would ask the girls if they knew where the tax money goes.
So that $100,000 annual salary became a spendable monthly income of $6,419 for Katrina Dotzer, eighth-grader at Prescott Mile High Middle School. She chose to be a therapist with a master's degree -with one child - who likes to surf and drives a pick-up truck. Sierra Pallavicini, seventh-grader at Granite Mountain Middle School, made the same amount of money as a model with one child and a convertible.
After taxes, the girls carried their checkbook registers to other tables where they figured out housing (own or rent), utilities (water, garbage, heat), communications (telephone, TV, Internet service), childcare, food, transportation, insurance (auto, home, life), medical/dental, clothing, entertainment, contributions, and credit card expenses. At the credit card table, girls picked one of three unseen scenarios to find out if they used credit cards or not, if they paid them off every month, or if they were in over their heads.
"They need to understand that a credit card is not free money," said Briette Adams, co-leader of GSA Troop 79 and Yavapai College student. "I had a bad experience with credit cards. I didn't understand and I overspent."
The Your Life table had "surprise" situations hidden in plastic eggs that included such things as winning prize money, unforeseen illness, and a $75 speeding ticket. A Help station was available for those whose expenditures exceeded income. One solution was the table offering part-time work.
Destiny Hayden, seventh-grader at Liberty Traditional School, sought help when she realized she had no money to feed her children and she needed better housing. She was making $60,000 as a singer-songwriter with three children.
"Oh, my gosh. I didn't want kids, but I got the ticket for three. That's a shocker right there," Hayden said.
The afternoon included an opportunity to ask questions of women in several professions at a Career Fair.
"I wish we had this when we were young," said Diane DeLong, senior program manager with North Star Youth Partnership. She added that the project was a "perfect fit" for the collaboration between AAUW, North Star Youth Partnership and the Girl Scouts.
"Financial education is so important - and equally important for boys," she added.
Mann said, although she conducted similar events, this was the first year in the quad-cities. Evaluations from the girls and volunteers were "overwhelmingly positive," she said.
"Most girls were not able to achieve the lifestyle that they imagined that they would have with the jobs they chose," Mann said. "They came to a higher level of understanding about the struggles and tradeoffs that their parents face in trying to meet all the needs of the family."
For more information, email Pat Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org.