Foothill Credit Union Hosts Bite of Reality Financial Literacy Event for AHS Seniors

Stephanie Wang, News Editor

Each November, high school seniors experience a tumultuous month as they undergo the arduous college application process. However, even as they approach their many essays with trepidation, even scarier to many students is the prospect of living on their own and managing their own finances.

On Nov. 15, senior students enrolled in Arcadia High School’s (AHS) Economics course filed into the AHS Multi-Purpose Room (MPR) to participate in the Bite of Reality activity, a program sponsored by the Foothill Credit Union to promote financial literacy.

With the help of an app on their phones, students were randomly assigned a fake identity that they would take on, including a designated occupation, annual income, family size, and existing credit card debt. Over the course of the activity, students traveled from station to station around the MPR to make different purchases in various categories of life expenses – entertainment, shopping, housing and utilities, clothing and personal care, kid care, groceries and dining, household needs, and transportation. At the center of the room was a banking station, where students could consult a member of the Foothill Credit Union if they went over budget or were unsure how to spend their leftover income.

At each station, volunteers, including parents and AHS staff, presented students with available purchase options in each category. In the transportation section, for example, students perused the catalog of differently-priced options: public transportation, used cars, and new cars. In the kid care section, students could choose to have a relative watch over their child or pay for daycare instead.

Although every participant was required to make a certain numberof purchases at each station, such as basic needs like food and clothing, students still had the freedom to decide the lifestyle they wished to pursue, depending on the purchases they valued most and their income. For example, some students chose to forego a monthly visit to the salon to buy a pricier car, with others choosing to splurge on shopping instead of an annual vacation.

“It’s interesting when students approach and they look and maybe they don’t have a lot of money left in their fictitious account, but they obviously do care about getting their nails done–they have their nails done–and they go for the cheapest option,” said Librarian Shannon Will, who manned the clothing and personal care section. “And that’s not usually the most realistic – thrifting is an awesome way to get clothing, but it’s not always. It’s not always the most realistic option.”

To better emulate real-world circumstances, students also encountered the “Fickle Finger of Fate”, a random circumstance that would impact their financial standing. Some students were lucky to find themselves the beneficiaries of distant relatives, while others were forced to tighten their spending in response to a car accident.

Foothill Credit Union Business Development Consultant Melissa Alcantar, who manned the banking station, hoped that the activity would inform students of the financial challenges and responsibilities they would face in the future.

“They definitely get a little taste of what real life will be like when they’re out on their own,” Alcantar said. “I feel like it also gives them a little bit of an insight into what their parents have to go through, because the funniest part is like they each get a child, right? So now they’re the parents in the simulation, and you hear the funniest things from these kids, like, ‘Can I return my child?’”

Will, too, expounded upon the importance of financial literacy for young adults.

“Credit card companies, as soon as someone turns 18, are sending credit card applications and students don’t usually know how to navigate that,” Will said. “I think it’s really important for students to understand how interest works, how credit works, how debt works, so they don’t find themselves in a situation that’s difficult or challenging as they navigate their own finances.”

As Economics students round out the final month of the semester-long course, the Bite of Literacy activity offered a valuable opportunity to put their knowledge in the classroom to use.