Nearly 300 high school students from across southwest Michigan got a dose of reality on Feb. 27 as Midwest Energy Cooperative and Southwestern Michigan College teamed up for “It’s Reality,” an interactive personal financial management exercise for high school students. The half-day program offered a practical, hands-on experience designed to teach students about budgeting and learning to live within their financial means. Each student was provided a monthly net income based on a career of their choosing, and was tasked with visiting stations where they had to make decisions for basic needs and lifestyle choices. Examples included housing, transportation, loans, banking accounts and utilities. Like the popular Game of Life, choices and chance helped students understand some of the financial realities of a post-high school world.

“Today’s students are provided with great academic information and resources, and our goal was to supplement that with an engaging interactive experience to bring those classroom lessons to life in a fun and meaningful way,” said Lori Ruff, event organizer and community relations specialist at Midwest Energy Cooperative. “This is an exciting way that we can work in partnership with the greater community to support the next generation of business and community leaders.”

Participating schools included Dowagiac, Lakeshore, Bloomingdale, Marcellus, Berrien Springs and Eau Claire, and additional volunteer support was provided by employees from Greater Niles Area Federal Credit Union and 5/3 Bank.

Midwest Energy Cooperative is a member-owned electric utility providing electric distribution and an assortment of energy-related programs and services to more than 35,000 customers in 11 counties in southern Michigan and northern Indiana and Ohio.