Submitted by: Candace McNeal, ILASFAA Diversity Issues chair
Late last year, financial aid administrators throughout the state of
Illinois gathered at Robert Fulton Elementary School on the Chicago's south side
for our annual Reality Store. 110 students, grades 6-8, participated in the
reality store; while it was a small group, it was indeed an energetic and
remarkable group of students!
Volunteers settled into their stations and anxiously waited for the
students to begin the Reality Store experience. The first group of students
rushed in very excited to start their adventure, role-playing as a 28 year old adult
with a randomly selected career (and accompanying salary), family size, and
level of education completed
The children did a remarkable job maneuvering through the 18 stations—everything
from paying their taxes and opening banking accounts to making choices about
transportation, housing, and making student loan payments. Life threw a
curveball when students stopped at the Wheel of Fortune; one might get a windfall
from unexpected dividends, or find that they had a minor car accident that
required repair. Several volunteers mentioned that they noticed students
actually making good decisions and budgeting wisely. The entire experience was
very rewarding for both the students and volunteers.
This year we had representatives from 15 different colleges &
universities; 3 lenders; and 1 loan
servicer. All sectors were represented, and members from the Illinois Student Assistance Commission participated as well. We also had over 10
new Reality Store volunteers this year!
As the Diversity Issues committee chair, I would like to thank everyone who
volunteered, contributed swag or even sent staff from the office to help out
with the Reality Store at Robert Fulton Elementary School. I would like to send
a special thank you to Marchello and Aesha for all their assistance with
planning and recruiting for volunteers for the Reality Store. Finally, I would
like to thank all the diversity members for their dedication and hard work to
make this event successful.