Real World Camp

Inaugural Real World Camp teaches students real-life financial skills

November 16, 2023

Council Bluffs, IA, November 16, 2023 - The inaugural Real World Camp for southwest Iowa students took place on Thursday, November 9 at the Salvation Army, 715 N. 16th Street in Council Bluffs. TS Bank was a proud sponsor of last week's one-of-a-kind Real World Camp in conjunction with community partners at the Council Bluffs Chamber of Commerce, New Visions Homeless Services and The Charles E. Lakin Human Services Campus

The event involved this year’s eighteenth class of Youth Leadership Council Bluffs working through a simulation of real-world scenarios touching on financials and the economy in which they will one day work.

Featured guest speaker, Brandon Garrett, Chief of Staff with the City of Council Bluffs, addressed the 22 students with the topic of “Community Challenges.”

Pictured above (left): Erin Trescott with Guild Mortgage and Wayne Wakehouse with TS bank help at the Real World Camp simulation. 
Pictured above (right): Kelli O'Brien with Union Pacific talking to students about a real-life financial scenario.

“I explained to the students that we have a major housing shortage in Council Bluffs. What we have learned is that nationally, when rental vacancy rates are below 5-8%, homelessness dramatically increases,” City of Council Bluffs Chief of Staff, Brandon Garrett. “The rental vacancy rate in Council Bluffs is below 2% as of 2021 and is likely to fall lower. The city is working to alleviate homelessness by increasing the housing supply of all types.”

This event gave students a chance to meet area professionals in a simulated city with real-life scenarios while working within a budget. The stations included banking, health clinics, rent, utilities, grocery, law enforcement, state assistance and more. The Real World Camp offers everyday interactions to increase experiential learning.

“Community members came together to provide a meaningful and impactful program for what we hope will be future leaders in our community,” said TS Bank Programs Manager, Traci Dresher. “Each year, high school juniors chosen to participate in Youth Leadership Council Bluffs are charged with producing a slogan. Appropriately, this year’s class chose ‘CRE-18 Change’ as their motto.”

Childcare costs, monthly bills and transportation were the biggest shock to the students and created lively discussions. Weighing the pros and cons of how to navigate adulthood is a key component of the event’s curriculum.

"I think every high school student should have to do this,” said New Visions Homeless Services Community Liaison, Heather Beekhuizen. “It really is a powerful experience! When I talked to my son at home last night, he said it was fun but really frustrating to deal with some of the systems. He said it was just really overwhelming to have to think about all the bills to pay and the scenario of taking care of kids. I think the simulation really sunk in.”

Outside classroom experiences for students fosters growth in money saving habits and financial behaviors. This financial literacy program acts as a catalyst to help create lasting client and community prosperity, while enriching our local youth for generations to come.

To learn more about this new Real World Camp or Youth Leadership Council Bluffs, contact the Chamber of Commerce at 712-325-1000.

About TS Bank: TS Bank’s mission is to Ignite Prosperity® in the communities it serves. Leading the resurgence of community banking, TS Bank reinvests 10 percent of their net income locally; hosting educational events and partners with local organizations and non-profits. TS Bank was chartered in 1923 and has $432 million in assets, along with the largest Iowa state-chartered C-Corp trust department west of Des Moines at nearly $267 million in assets named TS Prosperity Group. Locations include Treynor, Macedonia, Atlantic, Corning, Council Bluffs and Ames, Iowa. For more information visit

About Youth Leadership Council BluffsYouth Leadership Council Bluffs is a program of the Council Bluffs Chamber of Commerce designed to develop and educate youth to become socially minded, active young adults. The program helps youth develop relationships and liaisons in the community that will encourage them to seek employment in the area. Students apply as high school sophomores and participate in the program their junior year. For more information visit