Good Works: Glimpse of a Brighter Future

High school students in Laurel, Miss., get a lesson in life after graduation with “Welcome to the Real World”

Students at Northeast Jones High School in Laurel, Miss., know a little more about the real world, thanks to a visit by Regions bankers and Regions Mortgage associates.

Stretching paychecks to make ends meet can be a startling aspect of adult life for young people as they finish school and start a career, especially in this community where more than 62 percent of the students are eligible for the free or reduced-price lunch program. To better prepare the Laurel students for life after graduation, 19 associates from the Regions Mortgage Support Center in Hattiesburg joined Mississippi State University Extension Service representatives to host a financial education program called “Welcome to the Real World.”

During the eye-opening exercise, 169 students were randomly assigned one of 50 occupations (such as carpenter, computer programmer or nurse), an assumed income (say, $2,350 a month) and a family situation (married or single, children or none). They then moved through a series of stations staffed by Regions bankers and made imaginary real-life purchasing decisions.

“It was rewarding to watch the light bulb go on for these kids when they understood the consequences of each financial decision,” says Regions City President Will Easterling, who helped coordinate the activity as a way to help his community thrive.

“Regions’ support was wonderful,” adds Susan Cosgrove, the Extension Service’s family resource management agent. “The students were so engaged and excited.”