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For five years Capital Living has been covering the Frankfort Area Chamber of Commerce as they host Reality Store, a simulation of real life as a 25 year old trying to live within their means, sometimes while raising a family. The Kentucky Employees Credit Union sponsors the event. Being a volunteer at Reality Store is a meaningful life experience itself, as you get to mentor young students and guide them through life situations. Over the years, Reality Store and the organizers have had to adjust accordingly to accommodate the over 600 students they facilitate in a single day. Once catering to high school students about to enter college, Reality Store now is geared towards 8th graders from across the county and beyond. It’s main goal is to increase awareness in the importance of their current grades and school attendance, and focus on long range goal setting with high school, college and beyond – so that they may be successful when they DO reach that 25 year old mark in their life.

This year’s Reality Store saw some major changes in the way that it operated. The biggest change was the venue itself. Previously held on the arena floor of the Frankfort Convention Center, this year the event was held at the Kentucky State University Exum Center. This changed served a couple of different purposes. First, as the Chamber expanded the program and invited surrounding area schools to also participate, so did they extend that invitation to the KSU students themselves. Second, it allowed for easier access for school busses. This year’s changes also included some middle school children from Jessamine County as well as a handful of KSU students. Although the KSU students are closer to being that 25 year old responsible tax-paying adult than the rest of the kids participating, the mentoring given by community leaders to them is crucial to increase critical thinking and developing their “real-world” problem solving skills.

What IS Reality Store?

Simply put, Reality Store is a collaborative effort of the schools and the local business community to teach how to manage their money over a month. Students are assigned a “job” that they might have at age 25 based on their GPA and attendance.  They may also be assigned a family with up to 4 children.  They must learn to budget their finances as they have to pay taxes, open a bank account, buy or rent a house and pay for utilities, find transportation to their job and even childcare for their “children”.  They also must furnish their home and buy groceries and clothing.  As “life happens” to the students, they learn that their budgets may not be what they anticipated and are counseled to find extra income with the National Guard or even a part-time job.  Students visit every booth and buy insurance, pay for vacations, etc. and see how far they can stretch their finances. It’s a dose of reality that we all have to live with as working adults.

The goal of the exercise is encourage students to always do their best while in school.  Local business leaders and KSU students volunteer their time to man these booths to mentor these youth.  Originally a 4H program, Reality Store is now in it’s 24th year under the direction of the Frankfort Area Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by Kentucky Employees Credit Union.  As the saying goes, “it takes a village to raise a child”.  In this case, it takes a community.  Cooperation between local leaders, parents and the school is crucial in raising a “work Ready” community for Frankfort and Franklin County. And the Frankfort Area Chamber of Commerce and KECU are partners in their commitment in making sure that happens. If your student was one of the 8th graders that attended this program, we encourage you to open up a dialogue with your child. The education that they are receiving today directly corresponds to the person that you would like them to be at age 25.