By Tramy Nguyen, Highline High School Student
One thousand and three hundred students and staff on one field trip.
The news was way past fresh, and yet I was still reeling.
As I sat in advisory that morning, juice pouch in hand as the sweet aroma of Top-Pot doughnuts offered solace from the cold, bleak world outside, I contemplated my emotions. To say that I was excited was an overstatement, but neither was I content. If I were to put it into words, I'd say that I was teetering on the edge of puzzlement, ready to fall into the grasps of indifference.
It was just so strange; to think that the whole school would together trek to the bustling front of Downtown Seattle for the sake of financial education baffled me, and frankly, I wasn't alone in that notion. We Pirates were sailing through uncharted waters and we had no idea what to expect, especially when the thick, foreboding fog that hung heavy in the air hinted at nothing in particular.
Being a relatively typical teenager whose experience with money-handling was limited to the occasional crumpled dollar bills that my parents managed to spare, I was greatly lacking in the financial knowledge department. Credit unions? Income tax? Loans? It was a foreign language that I desperately wanted to understand before I ended up as a penniless, debt-ridden college student living under a cardboard box. So while I didn't feel much about attending the BECU Financial Reality Fair itself, I did genuinely hope to get a better understanding of the monetary world.
Upon arriving at the Convention Center, my expectations were still low. As with money, I knew next to nothing about BECU. I expected blue-collared, fresh-pressed, khaki-wearing corporates; stern, blue, and all business. But as they filed us into the ballroom, the first thing to grace my sight was the color red. These waters were not ominous blue, but bright crimson; a sea that did not send waves forth to push us away, but ecstatically waved at us to welcome us into safe harbor with festive pom-poms and the same infectious smiles. Rather than pantsuits and dress shoes, the BECU employees donned jeans and sneakers to accompany their red “Closing for Good” t-shirts. They laughed and cheered and clapped, and pushed past each other to flash their brilliant grins at us.
It was a wonderful energy that never once waivered throughout the day as they patiently answered our many questions, pretended to sell cars and pets and cable TV to us, and whimsically persuaded us to donate to charity and invest in gym memberships as we stumbled around the rudimentary condensation of the “real world” as fictional working-class citizens. Yes, it was a short-lived, simplified simulation, but the low-key stress and the decisions we were forced to make were very much real. Though it was brief and admittedly rather lackluster, the Reality Fair was an informative and nonetheless eye-opening experience that boosted my confidence in the financial security of my future, and I'm truly thankful for the opportunity.