February 14th, 2018


Reality hit eighth grade students last Friday. At Jackson Academy’s first Reality Fair each student was given a paycheck based on a career they are interested in pursuing. Each paycheck included a pay stub that showed all tax deductions required by law. Using their after-tax earnings to form their budget, students moved through a rotation of stations where they selected and paid for products and services using amazingly realistic checks. Now they know how to fill one out!

The students’ assigned goal was to spend less money than they earned. C Spire representatives showed them different cell phone plans. Paul Moak’s Honda dealership offered different cars for the students to pretend to purchase. New York Life presented students with insurance options, and Whole Foods Market showed students different grocery plans. The “surprise” station added an extra twist to the day, as students drew a card that told them what unexpected event they would have to pay for that month, like a flat tire or a visit to the doctor. Trustmark National Bank was also on site, talking with students about wise financial decisions. All of the costs of living added up quickly, and many students were shocked to discover that it’s not always feasible to buy what you want on a starting salary!


Throughout the event students took breaks from decision-making to hear from JA alumni Paige Gordy Porter ’07, now a senior audit manager at KPMG, Russ Brabec ’07, who works as a lawyer at Jernigan Copeland Attorneys, and Jessica Arnold ’09, a fourth-year medical student at UMMC. Each speaker spoke about how they chose their career path.

Many young men and women encounter their first opportunity to pay bills and manage their own budgets during their first year out of college. Thanks to Mary Wesson Sullivan and the vendors and alumni who supported this event, Jackson Academy’s eighth grade students were challenged to start thinking about their future. In her closing remarks, Sullivan asked students: “It’s hard to live with this little amount of money, isn’t it? So does this motivate you to work hard in school so that you can get good jobs?” The audience of eighth graders responded with a resounding “Yes!”