Reality U at Great Bend Middle School

The United Way of Central Kansas and Great Bend Middle School provided 8th Grade students with a course about reality. Reality U, a program available from The Pando Initiative, is in its 3rd year in Great Bend, teaching students about what life is like after they complete their schooling and how the decisions that they make now and throughout High School will impact their futures.

With the support of numerous sponsors including Adams, Brown, Beran & Ball, Benefit Management, LLC, Best Western Angus Inn, City of Great Bend, Credit Union of America, Farmers Bank & Trust, First Kansas Bank, Marmies Auto Group, MPIRE Realty Group, Nex-Tech, Nex-Tech Wireless, Spectrum CPA Partners, LLC, The University of Kansas Health Systems-Great Bend Campus, and Wheatland Electric, along with each community volunteer, this program is brought to the nearly 250 8th grade students at Great Bend Middle School.

The program starts out with a short survey for the students asking what they want to be when they grow up, if they envision themselves married, or having kids, and their current GPA. This information is plugged into a program and each student is given a life situation at age 26. With GPA being considered, not every student will have their dream job. If they want to be a doctor, but don’t have the grades to get there, they may still be in the medical field, but not as a doctor.

The students then go to pay their monthly bills at the 12 booths set up in the GBMS gym. They will have to purchase a car and car insurance, medical insurance, a home, pay utilities and childcare, and get a cell phone & internet plan. They each also have to the Chance booth, where with the roll of the dice, they may break a leg or pick up an extra shift at work. There is a Q & A booth for students to go to if they get into a bind and need help budgeting for the month.

Outside the gym, numerous community members join together to talk to the students more in depth about the choices they are making and how to start planning now. These breakout sessions include The Reality of High School with high school students talking to the middle schoolers and school counselor Rachel Thexton talking about how to choose classes in high school, college counselors also talk to the students about applying for scholarships and the student loan process, The Reality After High School with community members, Lindsay Bogner and Katie Powell, talking about how they got to where they are, the cost of living on your own, and the choices they wish they could make again. There is also a Cost of Delinquency session, with Casey Rowland from Juvenile Services and Officer Paul Millard and Resource Officer Ethan Thomas talking to the students about making good choices and the long-lasting impacts of making the wrong choices. There is also a Financial session, with Barry Bowers and Dale McKinney talking to the students about loans, bank accounts, and credit cards.

The goal of the day is make an impact on these students. This is often seen at home, with students thanking their parents for all they do for them. The program helps them to realize the costs associated with being on your own, having children, and the impact that their grades and choices now can have on their lives. UWCK is proud to have brought this program to Great Bend and, with the support of sponsors and volunteers, plans to continue this program.