Students in Real World Camp

Real World Camp teaches middle school students real-life financial skills

April 14, 2021

The Bank of Tioga is proud to sponsor this one-of-a-kind Real World Camp in conjunction with the North Dakota JumpStart Coalition. To learn more about this hands-on virtual learning opportunity for today’s middle school students, see our interview with Joy Sparks, financial literacy coordinator at The Bank of Tioga.


Can you tell us about Real World Camp and its mission?
Real World Camp is sponsored by North Dakota JumpStart Coalition to give middle school students a day in the life of experience as an adult. Students have bills, budgets, families and careers. In years past when the event was held in person, the camp offered a chance to meet with area professionals in the simulated “city” to fill out their budget and learn from real-life scenarios. From cable bills, grocery stores, banks, rental agents, car dealerships and more, the Real World Camp offers everyday interactions to increase experiential learning. 

This year the event is all virtual and currently available now. Professionals from all over the state gave “real world” lessons for teachers to use in their classrooms virtually, and we partnered with North Dakota State University Extension to offer a budgeting program.

real world camp logo

Can you tell us how to get teachers, parents or students involved?
This year the camp is now available virtually for all locations statewide. Teachers and parents can register at and the North Dakota JumpStart will send the link for the students to use. We'll continue to update programming and offer to schools that may not be able to attend the in-person event in the future. The camps are so popular that often times spots fill up so quickly and classes are turned away. This on-going virtual option will give those students an opportunity to have a similar experience.

How did Real World Camp get started?
Real World Camp is a North Dakota concept. Many parts of the U.S. have similar programs, but Real World Camp grew out of a couple of volunteers with a passion for teaching children financial literacy and what the future hold for them as adults. Bismarck, ND held the first camp a decade ago and other cities across the state have joined in. The Williston Real World Camp started in 2018, which is the closest site for The Bank of Tioga communities and locations in Tioga and Crosby. 

How did The Bank of Tioga first get involved?
I joined North Dakota Jumpstart Coalition and learned about the event in Bismarck. I volunteered to help and saw what an amazing learning experience it was for the students. I came back and immediately issued the idea to start one in Williston. The Bank of Tioga has been the major sponsor of the event since the first year in 2018.

What have been some projects and overall impact from the Real World Camp?
Area students are getting a hands-on example of money management and real-life scenarios. With this knowledge, they have a leg up on many decisions they will face in a few years. Students also have the opportunity to interact with area professionals, business owners, as well as their peers. 

Any collaborative projects with others in the area?
To host and coordinate the Williston Real World Camp requires lots of collaboration. The Great Northwest Education Cooperative is an amazing partner and the Williston State College also helps provide volunteers. When in-person, Williston School District prepares delicious lunches for the students and over 30 businesses have a booth in the Real World town where students ask about budgeting for their goods or services. These folks were still involved this year, even as the event transitioned to virtual.

How can others get involved or help in the future?
When we return to in-person, we'll need people to answer student’s questions, businesses to participate in our “city” and provide day-of volunteers. We are always looking for sponsors when putting on this large of an event.

Favorite story or memory from past years?
Kids are always amazed at the cost of having a pet, and I have heard many times how much shockingly daycare costs. A local, retired dental hygienist speaks each year to the kids and is a fan favorite. She will give out toothbrushes and tease the kids that they better be using them or they will be paying dentist bills for years to come! I love kids and am fulfilled by knowing I make a difference. This event and what the kids learn makes a difference for years to come.

How does this event help other communities at large?
The students are learning about things that everyone faces! Even though they may not use the information for a couple years, it makes them appreciate what their parents do for the family and why some choices are made.

How can others learn more about the event?
Visit or contact Joy Sparks at to learn more. North Dakota has camps in Bismarck, Minot, Fargo, Jamestown, Grand Forks and virtually. The goal is to start a camp in Dickinson, which would make Real World Camp available all over the state.

About The Bank of Tioga:
The Bank of Tioga is a community bank that values citizenship, exceptional client service, serving as a business leader in its community. Committed to supporting local organizations, the bank reinvests a portion of their net income back to the community. The Bank of Tioga was chartered in 1951 and was acquired by TS Contrarian Bancshares Inc., an affiliate of TS Banking Group in 2014, with $334 million in assets. Branch locations Tioga and Crosby, North Dakota. For more information visit