Every spring, hundreds of Columbus City high school students participate in Get Real, a financial literacy program hosted by Huntington and The CW Columbus. Get Real opens the students' eyes to the difficulties of managing money in the real world. This year, Get Real was held at Everest Institute on Friday, April 29.
In a recent study of high school students, conducted by the Economic Center at the University of Cincinnati, participants scored an average of only 54.5 percent on tests of overall economic and financial understanding. According to a 2014 survey by the Council for Economic Education, only nineteen states require personal finance or economic courses to graduate high school. Because Ohio is still not one of those states, Huntington, the CW Columbus and Columbus City Schools have partnered to give students a crash course in money matters.
"I think this is a real eye-opener for students," said Jim Kunk the Regional President of Huntington Bank. "It shows them how fast money can disappear."
Sponsors who participate in the program host booths where students learn about and, using a fake checking account, pay for certain necessities. For example, when students visit the auto insurance booth sponsored by Huntington Insurance, they learn about insurance premiums for their cars and write checks to cover their monthly costs.
Learning to balance a checkbook, manage a monthly salary and manage a Huntington Bank checking account are all part of the Get Real experience. Students who participate are assigned an employment position and family status, such as "two children" or "no children." Students use their accounts to pay for housing, childcare, taxes, education, transportation, utilities, groceries and other expenses.
Many students have to take a second job to cover their monthly bills. One of the volunteers said, "Get Real is such a great program for students getting ready to graduate. It's an eye-opening experience understanding how costly things like insurance, car payments and entertainment can be."
Michael Childs, Vice President and Community Development Manager of Huntington Bank, says of Get Real, "By educating students, it helps them avoid the common pitfalls that they may have when they're making financial decisions. So, it's a great program and it helps them learn and understand what's really important."
Childs added, "It's so important to have students get experience writing checks and balancing a ledger so they can see how to manage their expenses."