Kamila Burruel flashed a wad of $100 bills and beamed a radiant smile. She was in the process of successfully planning her financial future as she walked around the majestic multipurpose room at Dr. Warren F. Frisbie Middle School.
Although the money was fake, Burruel, an eighth-grade Frisbie Middle School student, was having some real-life success and making sound decisions at the inaugural Bite of Reality. The school partnered with Wescom Credit Union and RMJ Financial to bring financial literacy to the Falcons’ eighth-grade students through real-life situations. The object was to have students purchase everything from housing to food to cars to vacations and more. Students had to make tough choices about what they were going to spend their money on using their laptops, which granted them access. In some cases, students quickly learned that they didn’t have enough money to cover their expenses.
However, Burruel said she felt prepared because her parents frequently teach her about money.
“I like this event a lot,” Burruel said. “I am learning a lot about credit and how to save money and just everything to do with money.”
Each student was assigned a profile which included things like credit score, marital status, job, and the number of children they have. Burruel had a job as a firefighter and a monthly salary of $3,000. Her spouse earned another $2,000 a month, giving her some financial flexibility.
Vandalyn Crayton, U.S. History and Ethnic Studies teacher at Frisbie Middle, helped bring the program to school to teach students financial literacy at an early age. Wescom Credit Union has brought the Bite of Reality program to various schools, but Frisbie Middle School is the first middle school to have the program in the Rialto Unified School District.
“I’m so grateful that my Principal, Dr. Makeisa Gaines supported this event and was behind it,” Crayton said. “We are so grateful that we can bring this to our students to get them to start making those important decisions now. This also helps our students to get an appreciation for what their families do every day. Usually, people learn by trial and error, and typically by error. We want to try to eliminate that so people can start making good decisions and start building wealth.”
Marshaun Fleming, a Frisbie Middle School eighth-grade student, was able to purchase two cars and a house, but learned there are a lot of other costs involved with adulthood.
“Being an adult is hard,” Fleming replied. “It’s a lot of money getting spent. I didn’t know that babies, cars, houses, electricity bills, and stuff like that costs that much. It’s a lot.”
As students went into debt, they were able to circle back to the credit union table and reassess their purchases and get back on the right path.
“I think they truly did get a bite of reality,” Dr. Gaines said. “I’m very thankful for my team, particularly Ms. Crayton, who brought this financial literacy program to our school. It was exciting to observe the students interact, collaborate and help each other as they learned together. It was an amazing day. I think our students walked away with some life skills that will be with them and help as they grow.”
When it came time to debrief on the event, students shared what they learned. One of the big lessons was that when it comes time to make a budget, people should pay themselves, first, in the form of putting money aside for retirement or emergencies, before any other expenses.
“This is a chance to give these students a dose of reality about what it is like to be an adult and make choices as far as their finances,” Andrea Ortega, Wescom Credit Union Corporate Partnership Manager, said. “This is an opportunity for the students to learn in a safe environment and make mistakes and get coaching from the credit union and how to budget overall.”
Various Frisbie Middle School teachers and staff such as Kathryn Valadez, Laurette Allen, Brent Copeland, and Marcos Velarde assisted students along with Assistant Principals Dorothy Ennis (who attended Frisbie Middle School as a student) and Jeremiah De La Cruz. But one teacher, Jeneen Stubblefield, laughed, “I came over from Kucera Middle School (also in the RUSD) so I can bring this Bite of Reality program to my school. Frisbie did a fantastic job! Kudos to the Falcons.”