Orosi students taste a ‘Bite of Reality’

Students get real-world financial lessons with a life simulation event at Orosi High School

Man counting college savings fund, tuition fee or student loan with calculator. Education price and expenses concept. Money and papers on table. Calculating budget and planning finance.
A man budgeting and planning finance with a calculator with some money and papers on the table. (terovesalainen on Adobe Stock)
Derek Fleming
Published June 4, 2024  • 
9:00 am

OROSI – Orosi High School students recently got a hands-on chance to experience the rigors of financial planning as an adult with a “Bite of Reality” event put on by Valley Strong Credit Union, volunteers and staff.

At the event on May 30, students were randomly assigned jobs, incomes and other details through an app, then challenged them to purchase essentials such as food, clothing, vehicles and housing. Student/parent advocate Genesis Valle said the experience was eye-opening for many students who participated in the activity.

“It was funny because the kids would download the app and be like, ‘I’m a mechanic and a have  six-month old child, or I’m a media person,’ so they got to go buy houses, they had apartments, they had houses, they had mansions, and they had to go get furniture,” Valle said in an interview with the Mid Valley Times. 

She continued, “It was funny because some of the salaries were pretty good and some of the kids were like, ‘I can’t be spending my money on designer clothes, I need to save my money,’ so some of them were saving their money. Some of them were like, ‘I’m buying used clothes because I had used clothes and I am fine.’”

Valle noted that not all of the students were as fiscally responsible. Some of the kids spent money on expensive cars, clothes and other lifestyle accessories. 

“They were broke. Halfway through the simulation they had to go to the credit union and take out loans,” Valle said. “It was fun to see the different types of students. If this was real life, these are the choices you have to make.”

In a statement to the Mid Valley Times, Valley Strong said the simulation was designed to teach students about budgeting. 

“The teens encounter various stations to ‘purchase’ housing, transportation, food, clothing, childcare and other needs. Fortunately, the game also includes a ‘credit union’ to help with their financial needs,” the statement reads.

The statement continues by saying through this interactive activity, teenagers are taught how to make financial decisions and are given a better understanding of the challenges that come with living on a budget. 

“Valley Strong employees and community partners volunteer their time to work at the various stations, some as a pushy ‘car salesperson’ or a commission-based ‘realtor,’ just like they may encounter in real life,” the statement reads.

The Orosi community presents an excellent opportunity for teaching financial literacy. The city is in an unincorporated part of Tulare County and many of the parents of students are immigrants who work low-paying jobs and don’t necessarily have the financial skills to pass along to their children, Valle explained. 

While this is the first time the event has been held at Orosi High School, it is not the first time Valley Strong has put on one of these events. Valle said she hopes this event becomes a regular activity. The campus is also exploring smaller types of financial literacy education that can be incorporated into the classroom setting. 

“Our students need that support,” Valle said. “They need to know when they are going into the workforce how to open a bank account, how to save money, how to handle financial aid and scholarship money responsibly. It is so important, especially in our community, that we support them so that when they go out into the world, they have some equity.”

Valle, who was responsible for planning the event, said that some lessons were learned that will make the next event smoother. She said that the event ended up being scheduled the day after an evening event the night before, so there were some complications with the physical setup. She said the event required about 40 volunteers and organizing the group had its challenges. She added that – overwhelmingly – the volunteers said they would be interested in working the event again. 

There currently are two efforts to add a requirement for financial literacy to high school curriculums. One effort is Assembly Bill 2927 authored by Assemblyman Kevin McCarthy (D-Sacramento). The legislature has tried and failed for several years to pass a similar bill. 

If AB 2927 does not succeed, a ballot initiative will be put to the voters in November. Should that measure pass, it would mark the first time that curriculum decisions originated from voters rather than the legislature. The initiative received nearly 700,000 signatures of support to qualify for the ballot.

Derek Fleming