Sun Prairie High School junior Jon Pineda is deciding where to live. He pulls out his phone’s calculator, weighs his options and ultimately decides to rent a house.

“It’s probably going to be easier and more convenient for my life,” he said.

Pineda isn’t making real-life housing decisions yet, but as part of the high school’s seventh annual Reality Rocks, he’s making the choices hypothetically.

On Dec. 16, other students in Business Education classes and Pineda made financial decisions as part of certain scenarios, many assigned based on their own goals.

Pineda was designated an unmarried law enforcement officer. With his circumstances, renting a house was the most practical choice, he said.

Students were assigned a job, family, credit score and salary and then went from table to table to make decisions on housing, cars, insurance, recreation and other expenses.

All around the fieldhouse at Sun Prairie High School, volunteers — often real-life employees in the industry — helped students navigate their choices.

Teddy’s Place Childcare employees talked to students about childcare. Junior Erin Daniel, who received the scenario of a divorced professional in public relations, had to split the cost of care for a 5-year-old. Junior Megan Lux, a hypothetical mental health nurse, had to fund daycare for a toddler.

Sentry Insurance’s Kip Kobussen, also a trustee for the Sun Prairie Education Foundation, has been volunteering at Reality Rocks since the event began.

Over the years, Kobussen said, it’s become truer to life. For instance, in the first years, students could get an unrealistic number of part-time jobs and live a luxurious lifestyle. Now, it’s a “polished” operation that more reflects the real world, he said.

“They take it very seriously,” Kobussen said of the students. He said he’d heard from students who were realizing that adulthood came with obligations. “It helps them understand it’s a lot of responsibility.”

Junior Zachary Hinz said the exercise was helpful.

“I don’t see a whole lot of other schools doing this type of thing,” he said.

In Hinz’s scenario, he’d just developed Type II diabetes — not ideal circumstances.

“But,” he said, “That’s life.”

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