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Fargo students get dose of reality at Reality Fair

Brady Boulton, 13, thinks about a question while being interviewed by Jodell Teiken, Director of Standards-based Instruction for Fargo Public School during a “Reality Fair” at Carl Ben Eielson Middle School in south Fargo, N.D. on Monday, June 23, 2014. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

FARGO – The Reality Fair at Carl Ben Eielson Middle School was a reality check Monday for 13 sixth-graders, as they got a taste of what it is like to interview for a job and juggle bills.

Eleven-year-old Anas Hajimadi wants to be a doctor.

He’s unsure if he’ll be a general practitioner, an emergency room doc or a surgeon. But he knows he’ll be frugal.

Sitting at the “Necessities” booth of the fair, he eyed his options for spending his first $5,957 a month paycheck (after Uncle Sam’s cut).

“I’m going to use all my money to pay back my student loans,” he vowed.

“I’m going to try to get a house next to Essentia or Sanford” hospitals to save on gasoline, he said.

Haircuts will come courtesy of his brother-in-law, a barber at Skill Cutz.

He’s budgeted $150 a month for food, so bring the chips and pop when he invites you over for his full television/Internet combo at $140 a month.

He’s also springing for all the bells and whistles on his smart phone at $110 a month, but he’s fine with not wearing a lot of suits with a $100 a month clothing budget.

Sitting next to him, Emily Lamb, 12, wants to be a veterinary technician. She, too, was being frugal, but more by necessity than design. Her first month’s pay after taxes could be $1,471.87.

After budgeting for basic phone, clothing, gas and food, she worried about housing, a car and cash for emergencies.

“I don’t think I’m in good shape,” Lamb said.

Teacher Julie Costello, who with colleague Brenda Cain put together the “You at 25” project that includes the Reality Fair, liked the learning she saw.

“They get an insight into why mom and dad have to say ‘no,’ ” Costello said.

In the past couple of weeks, the students researched jobs, took field trips to area businesses, and learned how to write resumes and interview.

The students get used to the idea that they can make choices about their futures, Cain said. “Nothing is decided for them.”

Costello said the students learned that “the difference between who I am today, and what I want to do, depends on what I do today.”

A grant for the program came from the Fargo Public Schools Development Foundation.

In his job interview to be an archaeologist, Domenic Hansen, said problem-solving is all about skills and creativity.

“You need a lot of skills. You need to be smart about what you are doing,” he told Fargo schools administrator Jodell Teiken, who was his interviewer.

Confidence is not his problem, he said. It’s knowing when to hold up.

“I actually talk too much,” he said.

Teiken was impressed by the voluble youth who wants to be “that guy” on the History Channel.

“I think he’s got his own number,” Teiken said. “He’s very creative; a good communicator. Sometimes he needs to be more direct, but great eye contact.”

Kristina Hein, marketing and brand management director of United Way of Cass Clay, was also impressed by the students she interviewed.

“I had a young man who wanted to be a chemist. He was spot on. He was good. He was very aware of what he needed to do,” Hein said.

“And we had a young lady who wanted to find a modeling job,” Hein said. “How do you teach young people to be personable and engaging? They’re definitely doing it here.”

Helmut Schmidt
Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including education, Fargo city government, business and military affairs. He is currently The Forum's K-12 education reporter.
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