Adult financial life takes a ‘bite’ out of West Valley High School students

Freshmen students in the West Valley High School gym take part in the Richard Myles Johnson Foundation’s “Bite of Reality” financial training program, sponsored by Altura Credit Union, Tuesday, Jan. 23. They learned what financial challenges they might face as an adult. Tony Ault photo

It was a ‘Bite of Reality’ for West Valley High School freshman Steven Tunchez who took on the persona of an electrician, married with a young daughter, finding out he had overspent his monthly budget on a new house and overlooked the cost of needed child care.

“Can I still change it?” he asked with a little hope in his voice.

Tunchez, along with 150 other students who were mostly freshman, took on an adult persona with a budget selected for them by volunteers from the Altura Credit Union, during special “Bite of Reality” financial learning program presented at the high school gymnasium Tuesday, Jan. 23. The students used a phone or tablet app to learn who they would be and what their budgets would be for the financial exercise.

Freshman Kayla Moore fared a little better in taking on the persona of married woman with one child, living on her spouse’s $3,361 electricians’ monthly income.

“I overspent by $88,” she said, realizing she should not have bought those vacations to Hawaii, the Black Hills and a movie ticket entertainment program.

The 150 West Valley High School students, mostly ninth-grader students in the schools’ AVID program, were assisted by WVHS College and Career Counselor Tommy Windmiller and Altura Credit Union’s Business Development Officer Karena Zermano and learned a little about what they may be facing financially as an adult.

What the students didn’t realize is the volunteers at different tables, mainly from the credit union and acting as car salesmen, real estate agents, recreation and entertainment programmers, baby goods salespeople, clothiers and others, would do their best to “upsell” the students’ personas, just like the real sales world. If they succeeded in the ‘upsales,’ the students ended their shopping tour by visiting the Altura Credit Union table for good financial advice.

The “Bite of Reality” program was created by the Richard Myles Johnson Foundation and is used by more than 50 California and Nevada credit unions, including the local Altura Credit Union. Last year the RMJ Foundation’s “Bite of Reality” program was enjoyed by students at Tahquitz High School in the Hemet Unified School District.

“The Bite of Reality program, launched in 2012, aims to teach young people the basics of finance by having them take a ‘real world’ test drive, complete with a job, money and the freedom to make their own financial decisions,” according to the RMJ webpage. The goal for the RMJ Foundation for 2017-2018 will be to reach 15,000 students in California and Nevada with at least 60 credit unions to becoming involved.

At the conclusion of the program, the students gathered to hear Tena Lozano, executive director of the RMJ Foundation, to give them some good advice.

“Remember, nobody cares more about your money except yourself,” Lozano said. “There will always be people who will be trying to sell you something more than you can pay for.”

She added they must always remember that in real life “the fickle finger of fate” will always intervene and to be financially prepared for that eventuality.

Windmiller said it was the first time the West Valley students participated in the RMJ program, and she said she saw it as a positive program that will be used in the future.

“This is good experience,” student Tunchez said. “I will be more aware of what to do now.”

The Altura Credit Union Administrative Office is located at 2847 Campus Parkway, in Riverside and is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, call toll-free (888) 883-7228 or visit

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