Frontier offers real-world experiences with revived career, reality fairs

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 03-30-2023 9:05 AM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — Some Frontier Regional School students got a reality check Tuesday morning.

Not in the form of a bad test score or a detention, but a spinning wheel that determined if they earned or lost (fake) money. The wheel and numerous other booths were part of Frontier’s dual career and reality fairs, where students got a taste of post-high school life by exploring career paths and some of the expenses and challenges they may face as adults.

“It gives a sense of what it can be like on the outside,” said Principal George Lanides. With the success of the event, he said Frontier hopes to keep bringing the event back each year so students can continue to learn and develop a better idea of their career goals.

While career fairs are well-understood, a reality fair is an exercise where students are able to pick a career path, which has a hidden income amount and a random credit score, and they must navigate the financial journey of an adult. Housing, clothing and recreation were all part of the equation, as well as charitable donations and the spinning “reality check” wheel, where teens could lose $600 due to a broken phone or win money through other life events.

In doing this, students like junior Caroline Deane were exposed to how some real-life needs have to be juggled.

“A lot of kids don’t know much about finances … and it can be daunting,” said Deane, who chose lawyer as her career path. “I think doing things like this can help.”

“I learned a lot about credit scores,” added junior Emma Graveline. “It’s interesting to see the realistic costs of housing and food.”

At the career fair in the school’s media center, representatives from 15 local businesses set up tables to chat with students about potential careers in manufacturing, media and recreation.

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Lanides said the event was not being held at its usual location of Greenfield Community College this year. So, the school decided to partner with nonprofit Junior Achievement, which provides education and financial literacy programs to students around the country, to bring the event to Frontier.

The event was open to juniors and seniors, while freshmen were offered My Career and Academic Plan (MyCAP) programming. Sophomores, however, spent their time taking the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests.

Director of Secondary Education Sarah Mitchell said bringing the event back to Frontier is an extension of the career-focused education the school has been growing over the last few years.

Before the school year started, the district received a $150,000 Capital Skills and Innovation Pathways grant that allowed the school to buy 3D printers, computer numerical-control (CNC) routers, a milling machine and other components for an advanced manufacturing and engineering pathway program. It also bought two hospital beds and two Nursing Anne mannequins, allowing teens to get their feet wet in health care and social assistance settings.

“It’s an increased focus on guiding students in their post-high school career selection,” Mitchell said of the fairs. “It’s what our students are interested in now.”

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