Students at Hilton Head Island High School learned a harsh reality Wednesday: Making ends meet isn't always easy.
About 615 students in career and technical classes participated in a simulation that principal Amanda O'Nan said emphasizes the connection between hard work in school today and earning potential after graduation.
It's the second consecutive year of the "Reality Store" simulation, which is organized by the school and the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce.
The students were assigned a salary based on their grade point averages. The higher their GPA, the more money they got. Some were assigned children to support.
Students chose cars -- anything from a BMW to a 1995 Dodge Stratus. They could decide whether rent or own a home -- many were surprised at the price of real estate. They paid electricity, insurance, water and other bills. They could also pay to eat out, get haircuts or buy clothes.
Senior Unique Chisolm said she was surprised by how much necessities cost. She didn't have to support children, which cut her costs, but she struggled to make ends meet with $1,538 a month.
"Now I see how hard it is for my parents," she said. "They try hard to make sure I have everything."
As Chisolm paid bill after bill, she realized she wouldn't be able to afford a cellphone or cable TV, let alone a meal out or a trip to the movies.
"The bad thing is I don't have any kids, and I'm still struggling," she said. "You have to put on hold the things you really want."
Students developed strategies as the simulation progressed. Many, such as senior Raheem Williams, began to opt for middle-of-the-road options.
Williams knew that on his monthly salary of $3,750, he couldn't afford the higher priced goods. But lower-cost options -- such as a diet of ramen noodles and Spam -- weren't appealing.
Some students saw that their hard work in school could pay off.
Junior Camille Felix didn't have a problem making ends meet. With a 3.79 GPA, she had $5,360 per month. She paid for essentials first and bought fun things with any money left over.
"I think this is plenty to live on," she said, "which means I definitely need to get a good job."
Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.
- Hilton Head students get a dose of dollars-and-cents reality; Feb. 16, 2011
- Beaufort County teachers try to make ends meet in poverty simulation; Feb. 17, 2012