Monday, February 1, 2016

ILASFAA's Reality Store is a success!

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.

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