On November 2, 2023, Missouri Military Academy 8th grade cadets traveled to Mexico Middle School to participate in the Mexico Chamber of Commerce Reality Store event, where they got to experience what it is like to have adult responsibilities. This was the second year in a row that the 8th grade class was invited to participate in the event.
“They walked away with an internalization that education and skills have a direct correlation to earning potential and that beyond the popular belief of an 8th grader, your phone’s data plan is not free,” says Chris Schafer '89, MMA instructor of engineering and science.
The opportunity helped cadets understand how education directly impacts the financial resources needed to satisfy both needs and wants. Each cadet was given an occupation with a corresponding realistic yearly gross salary, which also included federal, state and local taxes that had to be paid. Cadets walked among stations that explained the processes of budgeting for items such as:
- A home.
- Home and renters insurance.
- Water, electric, sewer and gas bills.
- Cars, car insurance, gas and car maintenance.
- Clothing, entertainment and charitable donations.
- Health insurance, phone plans, internet and groceries.
“I learned that life is harder than it looks and that you should use your money wisely,” says Cadet Gavin Dooley.
The reality store was supported by Mexico business leaders who were also participants in the opportunity. When a cadet went to get their electric bill, it was explained by a Consolidated Electric Co-Op representative. When they went to buy a home, a local real estate agent discussed home options. When they went to get a loan, a local banker explained interest rates and how to calculate monthly payments. When they went to buy a car, a representative from a local car dealership explained the process.
“I learned that you need to manage your time and money, because time goes fast and money does, too,” says Cadet Humberto Junquero.
When the cadets returned to MMA, they discussed the importance of investing in their future selves by working hard in school, doing well on the ACTs and SATs, saving money and building a monthly budget.
“I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life before the reality store,” says Cadet Hayden James. “Now at least I have a vague idea.”
Thank you to the Mexico Chamber of Commerce for inviting our cadets to participate in this invaluable experience.