Lyons Township High School consumer students get healthy dose of reality
Colin McLean spins the wheel atLyons Township High School as part of a simulation, the Reality Store, similar to the game of Life. Students chose a career, bought a car, decided where to live, whether to get married. | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 8, 2012 1:34PM
Lyons Township High School junior Kailey Rousonelos of La Grange approached the wheel of fortune in with a bit of apprehension during a summer consumer education class.
“I’m so scared. I don’t want to lose my job,” Rousonelos said with a nervous laugh as she gave the wheel a firm spin.
At the age of 25, Rousonelos was working as a registered nurse and married with one child, according to choices she made earlier for the Reality Store simulation, resembling the board game of Life.
Luckily, the spinner landed on a $150 tax refund for Rousonelos, instead of a trip to the unemployment office. Still, there was a lot to juggle stretching her monthly salary for housing, insurance, utilities, transportation, groceries, personal expenses and $510 for childcare.
“It’s a little scary for the future not being sure what will happen,” she said. “This opens your eyes to everything that could possibly happen.”
The program, developed by the Rotary Club of La Grange to encourage high school leaders, was sponsored by the West Suburban Chamber of Commerce and Industry and LT. About 90 students each clutched an envelope of play money and visited stations June 21 set up around the Corral building at the south campus in Western Springs.
“We wanted to do something like this during the school year, but it takes longer than a class period,” said Scott Eggerding, director of curriculum. “Summer is the perfect time to experience this.”
Eggerding said he enjoyed some of the reactions form 60 students who attended the first session of the day.
“The kids who chose to be a special agent or work for the FBI were disappointed they weren’t making more money,” he said. “One boy chose to live in a studio apartment and buy a Maserati.”
La Grange junior Paige Marogil, said she, too was disappointed with her wages.
“I was surprised, actually, about my salary. It was more than I thought,” said La Grange junior Paige Marogil.
As a filmmaker and editor, she earned $3,163 a month, according to a government database, and took home $2,899 after taxes.
Marogil spun the wheel and was caught speeding with a $75 fine. She also spent $150 repaying her student loans and bought a used car and a train ticket to get around.
But Countryside senior Lauren Von Drasek was thrilled with her spin.
“I got a raise of $1,200 a month. That’s the best one you can get,” said Von Drasek, who had earned $2,824 a month after taxes as a counselor with a master’s degree in psychology.
“I bought a condo, too,” she said for $798 a month. “I’m not married, and I don’t have any kids so I figured why not.”
Brookfield senior Carl Leake researched the salary potential of an aerospace engineer and plugged in his own lifestyle preferences “to get this as realistic as possible.”
“I bike everywhere I go now, so I could survive without a car,” Leake said. “I chose public transportation, even though it cost more than a used car. I’m willing to pay more.”
Although his take-home pay wasn’t a surprise, Leake said monthly expenses were more than he expected, such as clothing and groceries.
“I was able to do everything I wanted, even shopping at Whole Foods because I’m a big proponent of organic food,” he said.
He noted the monthly food bill was $375 at Whole Foods, compared to $100 for shopping at Walmart and Meijer.
After making a $200 charitable donation, Leake deposited $145 into his savings account.
“This was a really good experience,” he said.
Western Springs senior Rachel Walton, who worked as a zoologist, spun and got the $1,200-a-month raise and wound up depositing $810 in her savings account to end the day.
“It was pretty fun and eye-opening,” she said. “”I learned how much I have to pay for things, like insurance, utilities, food and leisure,” Walton said. “Everything costs a lot of money.
“I feel better prepared to make decisions,” she said.