Students in 8th grade from both middle schools in Crown Point headed to Colonel John Wheeler Middle School and went through the annual Reality Store on November 14. This event is put on each year by the Crossroads Regional Chamber of Commerce to help students begin thinking about future plans for their lives.
Beginning early in the morning, students came dressed professionally to the middle school and pretended that they were 28-years-old for a day.
Michael White of Indiana Wesleyan University and Educational Division Chair of the Crossroads Chamber has helped to coordinate the Reality Store for the last seven years.
"It's a great learning exercise for the 8th graders," White said. "We show them the sort of decisions that they are going to have to make at the age of 28. It's a realization of what their parents and guardians do on a monthly basis."
Students arrived and went through orientation which explained the Reality Store and what they were required to do in it. Then they were ushered to the gymnasium where they began to make decisions about housing, food, utilities, childcare, budgeting, insurance, and more.
"A lot of unknowns happen when we are working adults and we want the kids to be as prepared as they can be," White said.
The gym was crowded with kids as they moved from station to station. It was estimated that over 600 students would make their way through the reality store that day. Over 75 volunteers from the Crossroads Chamber helped them at each station.
"We've been partnered with the Crossroads Chamber for three years," Principal Tim Vassar said. "It beneficial for our kids because this gives them a real dose of reality; what it means to handle money, how to handle a budget, and the reality of things where your life changes after you get out of school."
Preplanning is a must when dealing with such a large group of students and a large project. Months beforehand, teaches at John Wheeler and Robert A. Taft Middle School did activities with the kids to get them ready for the reality store. A lot of physical work goes into this, too, setting up the gym, creating the handouts for the students, and directing the volunteers.
"We were here late last night setting up, we were here very early this morning, and it takes a lot of hands to make this work," Vasser said.