Sparrows Point High School Students Get a Dose of Financial Reality

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More than 175 Baltimore area students got a chance to experience life in the real world, managing their money, and making smart, informed financial decisions when SECU – Maryland’s largest credit union – The MD & DC Credit Union Association, First Financial Federal Credit Union, and other participating credit unions held a “Reality Fair” at Towson University’s SECU Arena.

More than 175 students from Sparrows Point High School recently got a heavy dose of financial reality when SECU – Maryland’s largest credit union – The MD & DC Credit Union Association, First Financial Federal Credit Union, and other participating credit unions held a “Reality Fair” at Towson University’s SECU Arena.

“The Reality Fair is designed to give students first-hand experience in managing their money and making smart, informed financial decisions that will help them once they graduate from high school and go on to college or jobs in the real world,” says Rod Staatz, President and CEO of SECU.

With volunteers from the sponsoring credit unions on hand to provide support, students participating in the Reality Fair were assigned careers based on their individual interests, along with a realistic monthly salary for that career. They then had to determine how to live within their means, all while paying for basic necessities such as housing, utilities, transportation, clothing, food, and other essentials.

“The Reality Fair is an interactive event that gives students an opportunity to make life choices about continuing education, career, housing and other expenses, and saving in a test environment. While completed in just a couple of hours, it helps to prepare them for the real world and the choices, challenges, and opportunities that lie ahead. While traditional classroom financial literacy training is beneficial, providing them with this ‘reality’ learning experience where they live with their choices and make adjustments when life throws them a curveball is invaluable. We are confident that these sessions will significantly benefit most, if not all, of these students in their future endeavors. We are very pleased to be able to provide this experience to our youth. It could be life-changing for them,” says Eric Church, President and CEO of First Financial Federal Credit Union, the credit union for Baltimore County Public Schools.

Just like in the real world, the students had to make the kinds of decisions they eventually will need to make in their own lives, including deciding where they want to live, what their housing costs will be, what kind of a car they can afford, and what kinds of food they can buy each week.

They also had to balance spending on those essentials with discretionary spending on things like entertainment, pets, gym memberships, and other items that, while nice, are not always practical. And to give students some experience in dealing with those unforeseen circumstances – and expenses – that potentially can wreak havoc even on a well-planned budget, students got a chance to spin the “wheel of life.”

After making their decisions, all of which were recorded on a customized budget sheet, the students balanced their budgets to see how well they made out, then sat with financial counselors from the participating credit unions to review their decisions and what they could do to improve their money management skills.

Dr. Geoffrey Holland, a teacher at Sparrows Points High School, helped arrange this field trip and experience for his students. He states, “Today was a reality check for what is coming up for students in the future and also what they experience nowadays. It was very interesting having them sit down one-on-one with financial counselors to talk about their budgets and realize where they might have to rethink choices they made. This experience gives them the opportunity to better evaluate the decisions they will make in the real world.”

SECU, First Financial Federal Credit Union, and the MDDCCUA look forward to hosting additional Reality Fairs throughout the spring semester.

Founded in Baltimore in 1951, SECU is Maryland’s largest credit union. SECU is ranked among the top 50 credit unions for total assets in the U.S, which total $3.56 billion as of July 2017. Headquartered in Linthicum, MD, SECU has 22 branches in Maryland and thousands of free ATMs. For more information about SECU, visit

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