Teen Students Feel a Bite of Financial Reality, Courtesy of Pasadena Service Federal Credit Union

Published : Wednesday, August 8, 2018 | 5:25 AM

More than 80 young people from the Pasadena area felt the bite of reality as they role-played being an adult, and learning about fiscal responsibility in a sophisticated game which taught them about the realities of managing family budgets.

The 13-to-18-year-olds were taking part in a two-day Youth Leadership Conference presented by the Youth Leadership Network, a collaborative group of youth-serving organizations in Pasadena, and supported by the Pasadena Service Federal Credit Union and other local and statewide business organizations.

“The idea was to provide young people with the opportunity to develop their leadership skills, to give them the opportunity to level upwards and move up in the world,” said Brian Biery, Community Engagement Specialist for CollaboratePASadena, a lead organizer. “So there’s everything from financial management to public speaking, to being able to tell your own story. All of these skills are ones that young people need to become future leaders.”

The event was called LevelUp2, the second year of an annual conference that connects students with the organizations and resources available for them to be able to continue on to college and even afterwards.

Pasadena Service Federal Credit Union (PSFCU) worked with Collaborate PASadena to sponsor the event which took place at the Pasadena Central Library on July 26 to 27. Students from schools all over Pasadena and surrounding areas came to take part in a variety of skill-building activities and learn about the opportunities available for them as they continue on to higher education.

LevelUp2’s first day was a Resource Fair, and the second day a College and Career Fair.

Biery said the event was a huge success, with support from the Pasadena Unified School District, Pasadena City College, College Access Plan, Day One, the Pasadena Public Library, and other organizations that helped sponsor LevelUp2.

Andy Tien, who represented the PSFCU at the event, said the credit union, in conjunction with other local organizations, focused on the financial aspect of education.

“I think it’s important to start at an early age,” Tien said. “This is in conjunction with the work we’re already doing at Pasadena Unified School District and the student-run credit union branch we launched at John Muir High School. The student-run credit union, affectionately known as the Mustang Branch, has been a phenomenal way for us to develop that relationship with the school district and next generation of credit union members. In fact, we have representatives from the Pasadena Unified School District here as volunteers because our goal is to launch this financial education initiative district-wide.”

An interesting part of the two-day program, an exercise called Bite of Reality, exposed the participants to a very sophisticated game where every high school student was given a personal profile, including a fantasy job with a fantasy paycheck, and was then asked to live one month on their fantasy budget.

Tena Lozano, from the Richard Myles Johnson Foundation, a statewide credit union organization, said the purpose of Bite of Reality was to give students a taste of what is in store for them, how to learn to work with what they’re given, and how to navigate between their desires and what they can afford.

During the exercise, tables around the room were staffed by people selling things like apartments for rent, homes for sale, fancy automobiles, yachts, expensive clothing, as well as ordinary things like food. The trick was for the high school students to budget their money and to spend wisely and to learn the consequences.

“We are trying to teach the kids how to manage money in a fun and interactive way so that it makes an impact on them rather than just a bunch of adults yacking at them. We’re actually making them live a budget,” Lozano said.

Tien emphasized that as a credit union, PSFCU is a community partner, owned by members, which serves as a resource for the community.

“We feel a strong sense of responsibility to give back to the community and to help the younger generation go further in life through financial education, which is a life skill that isn’t always taught in schools,” he said. “Developing and nurturing community relationships still matter.”

You can visit Pasadena Service Federal Credit Union headquarters at 670 North Rosemead Boulevard, in Pasadena, or call (877) 297-4707 or visit their website https://www.mypsfcu.org. Focusing in the greater San Gabriel Valley with 4 branches in Covina, Vernon, Pasadena, and John Muir High School, they’re your community partner. You can also stay in touch with them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mypsfcu and Twitter: @PasadenaServFCU

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