The brightly lit Hoquiam High School library was filled with chatter and laughter as over 100 students bustled about to participate in the interactive financial simulation, Mad City Money, on December 6.

GNWFCU Mad City Money
CEO of the Great NorthWest Federal Credit Union, Doug Page, hands out Mad City Money packets to the students that contain their salary and other information they need in order to participate. Photo credit: Amy Potter

Each year, the Great NorthWest Federal Credit Union (GNWFCU) has staff from several of their branches volunteer to put on this program that helps students gain a new perspective on real world financial responsibilities. This year, Hoquiam High School is also participating in Washington Business Week for the first time in 18 years. Business Week coincided well with the lessons taught in Mad City Money, allowing students to focus on an individual learning activity.

“It’s an eye opener to get those real life experiences,” says Doug Page, CEO of GNWFCU. “It’s a budgeting exercise as well, but I think the kids get the most out of it as far as realizing ‘gosh, my parents have to cover the cable bill, the phone bill, pay for car insurance…’ and all of these things add up.”

During the introduction by Christy Vessey, business developer at Express Employment Professionals and representative for Mad City Money, the juniors of the high school were given a job with a set income along with other responsibilities ranging from credit card debt to having a child. The goal by the end of the exercise is to have at least $100 leftover, which many students learned was more difficult than it sounds.

GNWFCU Mad City Money
Christy Vessey, a coordinator of Mad City Money, introduces how the simulation works to the junior class at Hoquiam High School. Photo credit: Amy Potter

“It creates a conversation with them about credit,” Vessey says. “When they can actually see it and do it, it really sinks in.”

The room was set up with several tables, each one designated as a station. Stations such as the mall, daycare, transportation or other potential expenses that adults deal with on a routine basis take up both floors of the library, each manned by GNWFCU volunteers.

“We’ve learned real life things that we’re going to have to do,” says high school junior, Brooke Bogdanovich. “I’ve never done anything like this, ever.”

Around the room, comments from the students can be heard about how they did not realize how expensive it is to be on their own. Many students joked that they have decided that they wouldn’t have children or have a spouse because it it’s not affordable, but overall had a good time with the exercise.

GNWFCU Mad City Money
Students go from table to table creating a budget of their expenses with the challenge of having to have $100 in spare funds at the end of the exercise. Photo credit: Amy Potter

“It’s actually really fun,” says Bogdanovich. “It’s a really good experience.”

Bogdanovich was the CEO of her company for Business Week and was allotted more money to spend in that position during the exercise. She said she still had to spend responsibly, but saw other students needed to be even more careful.

“They have to budget, they have to spend the right money on everything, or else that’ll hurt them in the end,” Bogdanovich says.

Another participant and junior, Hunter Smith, was the CEO of his company for Business Week and had a good time with his fellow classmates, saying that Mad City Money and Business Week has been great for the communication and teamwork in the junior class.

“I’ve been learning a lot, definitely,” says Smith. “I think this was really good for our class.”

GNWFCU Mad City Money
Mad City Money helps students to realize how many different expenses there are when it comes to handling all of their own finances. Photo credit: Amy Potter

The students are all taking the tips and lessons they’ve learned in basic budgeting with them after taking part in Mad City Money. A lot of them voiced how their thinking on handling their own finances in the future changed.

“I think you’re always thrown a curveball in life,” Smith says. “You can never plan for everything but you can always keep your options open. It’s always good to have a backup plan.”

For the last several years, Mad City Money has been an active program at several schools in Grays Harbor and other counties. The goal is to show students how important it is to make wise financial decisions early on and see firsthand the consequences of spending beyond a budget. Brock Maxfield, principal of Hoquiam High School, says that Business Week and all of the activities involved, from teamwork building exercises to engaging in Mad City Money, are having a positive impact on the students.

“It’s getting people outside their comfort zone, learning about business in general and business concepts,” says Maxfield. “The vast majority of them are loving it.”

The Mad City Money program wraps up the exercise with a final get together lead by Vessey. The students go over what they have found out about themselves, what they might change in the future and to also answer any questions they might have.

To learn more about the credit union and membership, visit the Great NorthWest Federal Credit Union website.


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