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Leibforth: Taking a quick trip to the Reality Store

Published: Wednesday, April 9, 2014 2:55 p.m. CDT
(Photo provided)
Katherine Leibforth is foundation director of the West Suburban Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

When my daughter was 4, we asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. If you have children, or nieces and nephews or any contact with any child, you know that this traditional line of parental questioning provides loads of entertainment. On this particular day, my daughter announced, “Someday, when I’m big, I’m going to be a princess!” My son, 2 at the time, chimed in (with a growl), “I’m going to be a bear.”

Enter Reality Store. Reality Store was introduced to the West Suburban Chamber of Commerce Business-Education Partnership Committee (BEC) by Rotary Youth Leadership leader Linda Yates, a business owner and resident of the western suburbs. Yates, a long-time member of the chamber and of Rotary La Grange, knew that the business owners in our communities benefit from well-educated workforce and consumers, and that business is engaged in the overall health of the communities in which they operate. So, the Chamber BEC with Yates, dozens of business volunteers, and the chamber staff, introduced  the Reality Store program to Lyons Township and Riverside Brookfield High Schools. These events were just as entertaining as asking a 4-year old what she wants to be when she grows up.

This is how it works. Before event day, school administrators and staff tell student participants that they are now 25 years old and starting their careers. They must choose an occupation, decide whether they are married or single, and whether they have children. They are then provided paychecks: a month’s salary that reflects their career choice. Let the reality begin.

In recent years, this chamber program has served hundreds of 16-17-year-old students, while volunteers have been entertained by the shock of many an international spy or fashion designer when they could not purchase the Ferrari they had assumed was a right of the gainfully employed.

Today, April 9, the West Suburban Chamber of Commerce brings Reality Store back to Riverside Brookfield High School for a second time and will return to Lyons Township High School in June. Students and teachers give the program high marks and I, for one, hope my little princess, writer, artist will have this opportunity to learn a little something about the game life.

For information about Reality Store or to learn more about how the West Suburban Chamber of Commerce invests in your schools, communities and economic growth, please call 708-387-7550 or email

Katherine Leibforth is foundation director of the West Suburban Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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