WESTFORD — In the waning days of the school year, juniors at Nashoba Valley Technical High School got a chance to see what life after high school looks like.
Thanks to a grant from the Massachusetts Office of the Treasurer/Office of Economic Empowerment, Nashoba Tech hosted a financial-education fair, "Reality Check - Life After NT," for soon-to-be seniors, allowing them to get a glimpse of "the real world."
Principal Matthew Ricard told the students that "many people don't understand the value of a dollar and how to plan accordingly."
For the day, the Viking Forum was transformed into what Ricard called "a giant game of Life," in which the students had to choose an occupation, then make real-life decisions about costs related to housing, transportation, insurance, luxury items and more. They also had to make decisions based on salaries provided and were assigned a starting savings-account balance and credit score, which affected many of their decisions.
They also had a chance to spin the Wheel of Fate and, depending on where the wheel landed, benefit from an unexpected windfall or incur an unexpected expense, and play Plinko, dropping tokens into a board and, as with Wheel of Fate, either gaining or losing money, depending on where the token landed.
And, to make it as realistic as possible, Westford Police Detective Joseph Eracleo, Nashoba Tech's school resource officer, was on patrol, pulling students over for various infractions.
Along the way, students had to visit such tables as Housing (hosted by Laer Realty of Chelmsford), Furniture & Décor (Andrea Perez from the Massachusetts Division of Banks), Health & Nutrition, Personal Care, Transportation, Luxuries & Extras, Insurance, Community Service, Credit & Lending and Savings (the latter two hosted by Lowell Five Bank).
After visiting all the stations, students had to visit the Reality Check table to gauge their outcomes, reflect on their choices and receive feedback.
Detective Eracleo pulled over at least three students for such offenses as speeding (going too fast from one table to another), window tint (wearing a baseball cap), and harsh and objectionable noise (swearing), all with a smile.
"This event was a wonderful opportunity for students to be exposed to and learn about the importance of financial education," said Marketing Instructor Sarah Ricard, who organized the fair. "Students were engaged, asked relevant questions and had to make adjustments along the way. It was nice to see students — even from ones who were initially skeptical — step up and take a critical look at balancing their budgets.
"Personal finance is something that affects us all, as young adults and beyond," she added. "Having an event like 'Reality Check — Life After NT' was a wonderful opportunity to prepare our students to be confident and successful with their future earnings."