Taste of Independence is a one-day program giving participants the opportunity to experience the responsibilities and the cost that accompany independent living. Each participant must fill out an application, interview for a job, obtain housing and transportation, purchase groceries and household furnishings, and cope with a variety of additional “circumstances” in the form of Oh Crap cards. These cards have unintended consciences such as “You have had unprotected sex go to the Clinic and find out your fate! Or they may have gotten a DWI and lose their job and their license but still have to pay for their car loan. They have a variety of different vehicles they can choose from which have different cost associated with the. For instance, a cheaper car may take more gas but have lower insurance. The nice truck is going to cost more both for gas and insurance. If they are unable to afford a car or just don’t want one they may purchase a bike or bus pass, however only some of the housing allows for a bus pass to be used. Some of the housing states they must have a car as it is too far to bike and is not on the bus route. There are three store they can choose to shop from, JC Nickels high end, Stuff Mart (average), and Thrifties (like thrift store and Dollar Tree combined.).The participants with lower paying jobs are given the opportunity to get a second job. Twenty percent of the participants are given a higher paying job such as mechanic, registered nurse, hair dresser or engineer. Thirty percent of the participants become parents and have to then provide for their child’s needs. After they pay bills for two months we then take a look at who has the most money left and who is the deepest in debt and the decisions they made. They learn that the person with a higher paying job like the engineer had to pay college loans whereas the hairdresser went to BOCES and did not have to pay it back. They may also learn that the person with the higher paying job doesn’t always have the most money due to children or what they spent their money on. Sometimes there will be a person with two lower paying jobs who has made very good choices and they have the most money at the end. This wrap up is always very eye opening to the participants.
Life is all about choices and letting them thrive or fail in a simulated world helps them realize just how the choices they make can affect them.