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Gateway Regional High School seniors Abigail Madru and Kai Rahilly bought phones and a streaming service from Al Lieb of Otis Ridge at the “Multimedia” booth.

Reminder Publishing photo by Amy Porter

WESTFIELD — Four hundred seniors and juniors from Westfield High School, Westfield Technical Academy, Southwick Regional School, St. Mary’s High School, Smith Academy, White Oak School, Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative and Gateway Regional High School gathered in two sessions on April 3 at the Credit for Life Fair at Westfield High School for an exercise in “real-world” finances from experts in the field.

Westfield High School seniors Wunnyuriti Ziblim and Milana Camilleri attempt to navigate the Credit for Life Fair on a limited budget.
Reminder Publishing photo by Amy Porter

When they entered the gym, students could either choose or were randomly assigned a profession, a likely salary and a credit score, which they had to display on a tag hanging around their necks.

“A lot of them are given really terrible credit scores. For the first stop, they can take a quiz to increase their credit scores. They’re also offered a credit card,” Taylor said.

At the “Credit” booth, they get advice on how to maintain a good score, including not ever missing a payment. She said the students are surprised that even prospective landlords will look at their credit scores.

Students are also tempted by broadcasted announcements from the “Fun, Fun, Fun” booth to go on vacations and purchase other extras. She said at the end, they returned to the Credit booth to see what “trouble-trouble” they got into.

“The goal is to give students some education on what it’s like in the real world, and to learn prices, such as for cell phones. It’s not just about buying a car and expenses. At the ‘Part-time Job’ booth, they go on an actual interview for the job,” Taylor said.

Westfield High School senior Milana Camilleri said she was supposed to be 25 years old and a medical resident, with a lot of debt.

“I have to be frugal. I’m trying to figure out how to boost my credit score and plan for when I become a doctor,” she said.

Wunnyuriti Ziblim, an environmental engineer, said he had gotten an additional part-time job as a math tutor to help pay his bills.

Doug Morash of Fidelity Investments and Heather Kane of the USI Consulting Group tried to sell students on retirement savings at Credit for Life.
Reminder Publishing photo by Amy Porter

Susan Borsella, financial literacy teacher at Gateway, brought 25 seniors to Credit for Life in the Huntington school’s first year participating.

“This is it, they’re seniors on the edge of being adults. Most of them are walking around saying, ‘I’m broke already.’ They’re all getting jobs.”

Borsella, whose class teaches students how to write checks, the difference between banks and credit unions, loans and credit cards, and hourly and salary wages, said a lot of what she teaches is out of her own experience and mistakes.

Gateway seniors Abigail Madru and Kai Rahilly were finding the exercise worthwhile. They had just bought phones and a streaming service at the “Multimedia” Booth from Al Lieb of Otis Ridge.

“It’s really fun and useful to help kids see how much they actually have to spend,” said Rahilly.

“It’s really valuable to go through this before going through it in the real world,” Madru said, adding, “It’s a shock to go from having to pay for nothing to buying a car.”

Kate Perez, math supervisor for Westfield Public Schools, said the fair is put on by Western Mass Credit for Life, which raises funds throughout the year to pay for it. Sponsors include MassHousing, Berkshire Bank, Bank ESB, Polish National, Westfield Bank and Westfield Gas & Electric. Volunteers also came from the Westfield Education to Business Alliance, and the Westfield Chamber of Commerce.

amyporter@thewestfieldnews.com | + posts