University Park, IL,
12:11 PM

GSU Students Serve Up Reality at Local Middle School

A group of students from Governors State University recently gave some 7th graders at O.W. Huth Middle School in Matteson a dose of reality. Supervised by Rebecca Michel, Ph.D, Assistant Professor in the Division of Psychology & Counseling, the four students—Lorie Webster, Maurice Hill, Juanita Salami, and Conswaila Davis—set up a “Reality Store” at the middle school as part of a team outreach project for a Lifestyle and Career Development class.

“Experiences like this prepare GSU students for the work they will do in schools and communities once they complete their degrees,” Dr. Michel said. “I intentionally provide real-world experiences that allow students to get outside the walls of GSU.”

“We worked with all different levels,” Webster said. “We had some special education, some accelerated, as well as standard track students. We ran a pre-assessment so that we could make sure that we were delivering to the students what we were there for.”

The Reality Store is what it sounds like—a mock marketplace where students can purchase pieces of future lives and gauge the cost. Randomly assigned marital and family status at the beginning of the day, the students “shopped” at 20 different stores. At one station, they bought groceries. At others, they picked up vehicles, clothing, and health insurance.

According to Dr. Michel, middle school is a pivotal time in children’s lives. It’s a time when they begin traversing the gap between childhood and young adulthood, when they start making crucial decisions that could affect the rest of their lives. The middle school years are the time when students are making decisions on educational paths and thinking about choosing careers and setting life goals in general.

“Projects like this introduce the community to topics that they may not have time to address, and the students realize how much real life scenarios can cost,” Dr. Michel said. “This whole experience was exhilarating. The wrap-up feedback from teachers overall is that they want to have this done throughout the school.”

Webster said she felt enlightened by her time with the students. A former teacher studying for her Master’s degree, she said, “Going into that setting made me want to go back and work with kids again. I was able to give back to our youth something that they’re not always exposed to.”

With a goal of bringing a hands-on approach to career guidance and learning, the students from GSU successfully completed the trans-substantive act of planting textbook theory into classroom ground.

Trina Matthews, a math teacher at Huth, said, “I think this is great. I’m working with these students right now on understanding the same concepts they utilized in the Reality Store. We’re learning how to figure out savings, percentages, discounts—many of the same skills.”

Webster, Hill, Salami, and Davis will showcase their work in a presentation on the GSU campus on Thursday, April 28 at 5:30 p.m. in D34190.