Monday, December 29, 2014

ILASFAA Reality Store

(by Janet Ingargiola, MASFAA Executive Council State Representative for Illinois) 

ILASFAA members banded together to participate in the Reality Store held in November at Kershaw Elementary in Chicago. 23 member institutions were represented, and over 40 volunteers helped make the day a great experience for the kids! Thanks to the members of the Diversity Issues Committee for planning and executing this annual event!

The Reality Store is a yearly project of our Diversity Issues Committee. This committee will solicit the participation of middle schools (the participants are in 8th grade) in high poverty areas to see if they would let us come and conduct a daylong event to help make their students aware of the benefits of completing high school and think about pursuing post-secondary education.

There are several stations that take the students through "life." Each student is provided a dossier with the biography of the person they are emulating: education, marital status, if they have children and how many, if their spouse works, annual income, if they have a student loan , etc. At each station the student makes choices, paying rent (or not), is their money for food or to pay utilities, can they buy a car, go on vacation, and various other events.

As the students move along, the ILASFAA volunteers at each station explain what they must address and the choices they have. It makes a clear picture of those without a high school diploma have more limited choices than those with a high school diploma and/or post-secondary education who have a wider range of choices.

The kids have a lot of fun even though it is a serious topic. The volunteers have a good time listening to the remarks, explaining their own experiences when they were pursuing an education and their career path. I volunteered  before and it was a very rewarding experience. The kids made me laugh when they would read their profile. For examples, one made a remark that, "no way am I having four kids and my wife not work." It also gave me a chance to explain what college is all about. One student read his profile and said  "I have a college degree!? Sweet! What's a bachelor's degree"? 

Many of the Illinois colleges donate items so that each student leaves with a bag of "goodies"such as t-shirts, pens, drinking bottles, calculators, and so on.

At our yearly conference we do a raffle and that money is given to the school for whatever immediate need they may have. One school restocked their library materials, another bought an appliance for their kitchen, and another stocked paper, pens, and other supplies for the students to use as needed.

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