Business students participated in Reality Day at WBHS
By Kara Conley, Current Staff
For four years, one teacher has been working to make her dream come true at the West Bend High Schools.
Cindy Mennig, a business teacher at East, wanted to provide a day for students to see the financial realities they will face when they become adults. On Feb. 26, WBHS hosted its first Reality Day for business students, so they could experience what their lives will really be like after high school. The event was held in the south gym and was sponsored by Glacier Hills Credit Union.
“It was one of my biggest career highlights, I have to say, in my professional life,” Mennig said.
During Reality Day, students received a piece of paper with their names on it, telling them if they were married or single, how many children they have, and the salary of the career they chose so they could see what their standard of living would be like with the actual career they want. Along with that, they were given checks to practice writing on and a checkbook page to keep track of their expenses.
When asked how long it took to make Reality Day happen, Mennig explained that it was a long process, but the pieces finally fell into place.
“Once I started discussing what we wanted to do this year, and we put the right people in place of helping us get to where we wanted to be, I would say this school year [is when it began]. Prior to that though, I’ve been working on this probably for about four years, just trying to get it established,” Mennig said.
Many volunteers were set up at different stations to help students make choices. Most of these volunteers were a part of the profession they were marketing to students. For example, when kids went to go buy a car, an actual car salesman tried to haggle them into buying the most expensive one on the lot. However, most students had a good head on their shoulders, and turned down the tempting offers given to them and instead went with the product that best fit their budget.
According to Mennig, Reality Day would not have been the success it was without the indispensable people who helped make it such a special occasion.
“Bill Greymont and Dave Talma [WBHS administrators] were excellent at just supporting, saying, ‘What do you need?’ and ‘We’ll make sure it happens,’ and they were really key individuals in getting it to be what it is. Glacier Hills Credit Union was the biggest sponsor behind it. Not only supporting us with the actual material for the financial simulation, but also helping in getting the volunteers and just pulling it all together,” Mennig said.
There were a few obstacles to overcome, but according to Mennig, it really came down to the logistics.
“The basic ‘Where are we going to host this?’ because in some schools it is on site and some it’s off site, and we really wanted to have our first one here, either in the gym or Sky Garden; somewhere where it was big enough to accommodate as many people as were planning to have. That was probably the biggest. The second was to make sure students could get to their lunch, and Mrs. Holtzer worked on that really well and so did Mr. Livingood from Glacier Hills,” Mennig said.
There were three two-hour shifts during the day that adjusted to students’ schedules and allowed them to enjoy Reality Day. Mennig was ecstatic with how the whole simulation turned out.
“I think the day of it went so smoothly, and the positive comments that I received from both the students involved in it and then all the volunteers was heartwarming. And then to get emails at home over the weekend from parents just expressing how happy they are that we hosted this, and that their children who usually don’t talk about school just couldn’t stop talking about it, and the reality of it where students were really having an eye-opener,” Mennig said.
Many students saw the effect that their financial decisions will have on them in the future and that made some students realize it isn’t easy in the real world.
“One student said, ‘I don’t like this reality. It sucks’,” Mennig said about what she overheard throughout the day.
“The boys found out soon that they don’t think they want to get married because it’s just too expensive, or have children because they saw the cost,” Mennig also learned.
Another student came up to Mennig and told her, “You know Mrs. Mennig, I need to take a look at what I want to do some day because according to what my wants are, I’m going to need a higher paying job,” she said.
Mennig was pleased to see that students were really benefiting from the event and was also impressed by how students branched off to speak with the volunteers about career options.
“I didn’t realize this would happen, but students actually started talking with people in a career field they want to pursue, and that interaction and that networking alone made so much of a difference for a lot of those students in planning for their education post-secondary. That was really cool for me to see,” Mennig said.
The first Reality Day was hosted solely for business students, but many students who learned of Reality Day wanted to join in on the experience, and Mennig hopes to include more people next year.
“It has been requested of us to have more students involved. I had students not even in the business classes, who know me, ask how they can get involved next year, so there has been a real demand for that,” Mennig said. “I think there is some thoughts of an entire class, like all juniors, or extending it to career tech ed, which means all technical education students, family life, and then business, but then again those are just some options so I’m not sure what wewill do, but we’ll expand it most definitely.”
The best part of the day for Mennig was truly seeing the whole event come together and provide such an influential and beneficial situation for the students at WBHS.
“Even students who don’t seem engaged in learning were totally into the simulation. They understood what the need was and applied it. I think it was so real, the reality of it,” Mennig said.
(Photographs courtesy of Allison Holtzer, East business teacher.)