“This is tough,” 17-year-old Bryson Dolly sighed.
He and dozens of other students at Douglass School in Leesburg took part in a Reality Store event Friday. The program was developed to give Loudoun’s high school students a glimpse at life after school.
Each student was asked to imagine they were 25 years old and living on their own. They were assigned a career, salary and a family situation, which meant children for some.
In their scenario, Bryson and classmate Tavious Lane each had a child. They decided to room together to help afford their $900 monthly rent payment. Bryson made $29,000 a year as a photographer, while Tavious made a similar salary as a loan officer and crossing guard. When this reporter caught up with him, Tavious was in the process of securing a second job to help pay the bills.
“I had to get another job because I ran out of money,” he said. “Seems like I’m just working all the time.”
The students lined up at booths throughout the Douglass School gym that represented a shopping mall, employment center, medical insurance provider and car dealership, among other common destinations.
Bryson acknowledged that expenses like insurance, food, car payment and rent added up pretty quickly. But he said he’s not completely unfamiliar with the challenges of affording life in Loudoun County. The high school junior works at Top Golf in Ashburn; he used to spend his paychecks on food and entertainment, but recently he’s saved more.
“I’m trying to put money away for college and help my mom and dad out,” he said. “So, I sort of get it.”
The Reality Store is supported by Loudoun Education Foundation, Claude Moore Foundation, Middleburg Bank, Summit Bank, Apple Federal Credit Union, Kohl’s, Leesburg Daybreak Rotary, GAM Printers, Northwest Federal Credit Union, Lisa Schnibbe, Robert Charnoff, and Gina Faber.