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Glenwood Springs sophomores get money smart at financial literacy simulation

Students learn the cost of groceries and how to save money at the register at the financial literacy reality town at Glenwood Springs High School last week.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

In a valley that is only getting more expensive, being money smart is a must for many.

For Glenwood Springs High School — and visiting Bridges High School — sophomores, a monthly budget simulation put their practice pocketbooks to the test. Lining the school’s gym on Dec. 2 with mock vendors for housing, services, insurance, second jobs and other monthly budget factors, students tried to make the bottom line work in the Reality Town finance simulation.

After filling out a questionnaire outlining career interests, students were randomly assigned a family size, then given a job based on their responses and their current GPA.



“In class, they chose a career interest area like agriculture or whatever, and when they dug a little deeper and looked for jobs that they were interested in, they had to put in their GPA, which took out a lot of them, unfortunately,” Glenwood Springs High School Financial Literacy teacher Jill Wilson said. “They’re sophomores, so their GPA hasn’t really hit them yet.”

Students stop off at the doctor's office table at the financial literacy reality town at Glenwood Springs High School last week.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A volunteer shows a student the cost of transportation at the financial literacy reality town at Glenwood Springs High School last week.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

The GPA ploy was one tidbit in the overall message of thinking about literacy and the future in high school, Wilson said.



Students were tasked with going from booth to booth, weighing different options for internet, housing accommodations, vehicle type, insurance coverage against their total budget. It gave the students a hands-on approach to the things they’re learning in the financial literacy classroom.

“It shows you the real world effects of your own actions,” Glenwood Springs student Carlos Silva — who was assigned the job of rollercoaster designer — said. “Your parents are like, ‘Hey, you got to do good or you’re going to be working construction.’ It shows you how to be careful with your money and not living paycheck-to-paycheck.”

The vendors were staffed by local volunteers, ranging from Rotary to Kiwanis to businesses.

Some chose to have representation there because financial literacy in their clients is important to their business model. Financial consultancy firm Dalby, Wendland & Co. had tax supervisor Katie Taylor manning the property taxes stand.

Students make their first stop at a table to establish a make-believe checking and savings account at the financial literacy reality town at Glenwood Springs High School last week.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A student stops at the military recruitment table at the financial literacy reality town at Glenwood Springs High School last week.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

“Getting kids involved in this kind of thing and to be exposed to the world and all the costs that are involved out on their own is a good idea,” Taylor said. “We have lots of small business owners, which is a pretty popular job among a lot of these kids. It’s just an opportunity to educate them, and it’s always a way of figuring out how to make financial literacy more common knowledge and break it down into more simplistic terms.”

Wilson said she got a grant from the Colorado Attorney General’s office to put on the literacy fair in addition to a district grant for $15,000, which was used to purchase the kit of materials and otherwise fund the event.

Colorado is not currently one of the states that mandate financial literacy in high school curriculums. Wilson said that Glenwood Springs’ offerings are even more important simply based on where the students live.

“I talk about that a lot with my students because they’ll hear, like, the national average of a house is this, and I’m like, ‘Nope, not here,’” Wilson said. “We talk a lot about having an emergency fund and not getting any debt.”

A volunteer shows a student the cost of housing at the financial literacy reality town at Glenwood Springs High School last week.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Volunteers help students understand the cost of living and various bills associated with adulthood at the financial literacy reality town at Glenwood Springs High School last week.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

For the students, it’s a tangible way to start thinking about money — and their schoolwork — before it’s too late to change their trajectory, if necessary.

“It’s like real life, sort of,” student Ramon Segovia said. “You have to have a good GPA to get into a good college, and you have to go to college to get some good things.”

Reporter Rich Allen can be reached at 970-384-9131 or rallen@postindependent.com.


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