Submitted by Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce
The former Central School area looked more like the school it once was Wednesday, Sept. 25, as buses came and went throughout the day, unloading and loading nearly 400 8th grade students from Dublin and Pulaski Middle Schools.
Half of each group went to the auditorium where the county Board of Supervisors meetings are held. There, Assistant County Administrator Robert Hiss spoke to the students and had some of them play the roles of county officials and constitutional officers. He told the students about
the duties, salaries and qualifications for each position.
After the event, Hiss stated, “Eighth Grade Reality Day is a wonderful opportunity to interact with our youth and expose them to the positive aspects of our community and how the Pulaski County government is organized and functions.”
Mr. Hiss was assisted by Board of Supervisors member Andy McCready.
The other half of each group went to the gym, where various area business leaders, officials, and citizen volunteers worked at various stations representing the areas where adults spend their paychecks. Upon entering, each student was handed at random a sheet of paper showing their “pretend” job, salary, marital status and employment status of the spouse, and number of children.
Students were required to first visit the Uncle Sam station and pay their taxes; this was the first big surprise to many of the students when they learned that they could not actually spend their entire gross salary! They then proceeded to the bank station, where they were asked to deposit from five to 10 percent of their salary for a rainy day fund.
They then proceeded to each of the other stations, where they were given options and the amount they spent was deducted from their remaining balance. Those stations were transportation, housing, communications, child care, groceries, utilities, insurance, clothing, entertainment, medical or dental services, furniture, health and grooming, contributions, and chance drawing from the crystal ball. There was also a supplemental income station they could visit when some of them realized they had to get a second job.
A “police officer,” Chuck Whittaker, was on hand to maintain order. Some students had to pay fines for speeding when they were caught running in the gym; a few even tried to evade the officer and ended up being charged an even bigger fine for resisting arrest. The “stork” was on hand randomly adding pink and blue stickers to the papers of some of the students who suddenly found themselves with another child, a set of twins, or even triplets.
Sheila Nelson of the chamber was the volunteer coordinator and Rhonda Hudson, also of the chamber, was the student logistics coordinator.
Chris Lichty of 4-H provided all the papers with information to be distributed as well as the materials to set up each station. Shannon Ainsley of Always and Forever was the official photographer for the event, and the pictures may be viewed on the Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook page.
Those manning the various stations and the businesses they represented were: Kevin Heller of the 27th Judicial District Service Unit; Debbie Lineweaver of SWVA Fresh; Monica Patterson from Caterpillar; Collette Hash of Jubilee Christian Center; Tabitha Hodge from NRV Economic Alliance; Mike Fleenor, Pulaski County Commonwealth’s Attorney; Susan Pattison of First Bank of Virginia; Cindy Craft of NRV Insurance; Janie King of NRV Fairgrounds; Mark Cox of Wells Fargo Bank; Christina Byrd of Sun Trust Bank; Stacy Tuck of Tuck’s Collision; Heather Nipper of Spring Leaf Finance; Gary Lewis Hash II of Jubilee Christian Center; Jerry Haynes of Virginia Retirement Specialists; Barbara Tuck and Ava Stilwell of Retired and Senior Volunteer Programs; Jason Wilson of Full Circle; Ruth Shelton of Gilmer, Sadler, Ingram, Sutherland, & Hutton; Dede Sommerville of Pulaski County United Way; Anthony Akers of Pulaski County Recreation; Brooks Dawson of Food City; Amanda Doyle of Pulaski County Partners Coalition; Henry Whitehurst, citizen volunteer; Wanda Shumaker for Steve Burcham, CPA; Carole Smith of Pulaski County Library; Brenda Eanes of Allstate; Brooke Malott of Webb Donald State Farm Agency; Martha Jackson, patron; Maette Crewe, Clerk of Pulaski County Circuit Court; Susan Hall of First United Methodist Church; Janie Hurd, RSVP; Carol Luckel of Heartland Rehab; Lisa Webb of Americare Plus; Lee Spiegel of PCPC; Jane Bell of Robert R. Bell Planning and Investment Advisory Services; Rhonda Whitehurst of Rodan and Fields; Cynthia Hurst of Virginia Cooperative Extension/4-H, and Shannon Ainsley of Always and Forever Photography.
The chamber received several comments from volunteers after the event. Brooke Mallott, marketing coordinator of Webb Donald State Farm Insurance Agency, commented, “I enjoyed the Reality Day so much! I really think this experience is such an eye opener for the kids who participate. I have (seen) several participants seem to have a light bulb moment and they would say, ‘I understand why mom and dad are so stressed all the time.’ I also heard several say they were never having children or that they were going to college to get good jobs. I really hope that from 8th grade to 12th they remember this experience and that we as a community can help these kids achieve their dreams. Thanks for letting me be a part of it!”
Martha Jackson, retired school teacher and chamber patron, said, “This is my third time and it just gets better and better. The kids are well-prepared and take it very seriously! Thinking very carefully about spending their money. Very definitely made the connection between education, occupation, and financial security!”
Brooks Dawson, manager of Food City, said, “It was awesome to see the students trying to work through their individual life/finance problems. Countless kids were openly surprised by how expensive life’s necessities are.”
Cindy Craft of New River Valley Insurance commented, “Thanks for asking me to participate. I feel so good about all the questions that the kids asked and felt that they were genuinely taking away good knowledge from the day and it is great that the chamber does so much to help the community.”
Maetta Crewe, Clerk of Pulaski County Circuit Court, commented, “One of the observations I made was how well the students behaved. I manned the clothing area with Martha Jackson and we were astounded at how many of the students shopped at the thrift stores. I truly believe that most students understood the importance of saving money even if they had mega bucks to spend. I really did enjoy being a part of this reality exercise and interacting with the middle school students. They were delightful!”
The Chamber wishes to thank all those who helped in any way to make this day possible and for helping it run so smoothly. In addition to those listed above, Dr. Thomas Brewster, the teachers and guidance counselors at both middle schools, the bus drivers, and all our volunteers helped make the day a real success.
Thanks to the students for participating and taking the event seriously, not just as a time away from school. Walmart of Dublin donated water for the volunteers, and T.J. VanDyke of MK’s Gourmet Pizzeria and Shoppe prepared and delivered a delicious boxed lunch and soft drinks.
This is just a small part of what the Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce does to help prepare our workforce of the future!