For more than a dozen years, the APRO Charitable Foundation has annually provided scholarships to rent-to-own professionals and their families. APRO members have contributed generously to the APRO Scholarship Fund – awarding 447 scholarships totaling $1,001,750 to date – empowering students connected with RTO to pursue college degrees and successful futures.
Illinois State University senior Erin Reed – one of this year’s 29 deserving APRO scholarship recipients – has been following her calling to teach since she was a young child, instructing an intent lineup of her plush animals from her small art easel.
“I’ve always known I wanted to be a teacher,” Erin says. “I’ve taught Sunday School at our church, mentored and tutored children in lower grades, and volunteered with children at every opportunity to do so. I’ve been pursuing this career my whole life.”
Rent-to-own has been another almost-lifelong constant for 21-year-old Erin; her dad Matt Reed has been in the industry for about 20 years, with the past 16 at Action Development Corporation, dba Aaron’s Sales & Lease Ownership. Today, Matt serves as General Manager of the franchise’s Decatur, Illinois store.
“RTO was a special part of my childhood,” recalls Erin. “I loved it whenever my mom and I were out and about shopping on a Saturday and we swung by the store. Aaron’s cares for their employees and has taken good care of my family through my dad’s hard work. I’ve always had everything I ever needed, and I’m forever grateful for that.”
Rent-to-own also played a key role in shaping Erin’s values as she grew up; during store visits, she witnessed a broad spectrum of customers coming in and how the employees interacted with them.
“People came in to make their payments, and they began talking about their lives,” Erin remembers. “They talked about hard times they were dealing with or good news they were excited to share. I got to see firsthand the incredible impact RTO was making on their lives and hear directly how grateful they were for Aaron’s.”
At a local Circle K convenience store, folks frequently stop Erin and her dad to chat, and to thank Matt for helping them out in difficult situations. One memorable example is a longtime Aaron’s customer who lost her husband suddenly and didn’t know how she was going to pay for his funeral, much less their Aaron’s payments.
“My dad let her know that because she was an Aaron’s Club member, everything would be paid for fully, says Erin. “And he offered her our church – for free – for her husband’s service. That’s the kind of connections and relationships Aaron’s helps build and create.”
Witnessing how rent-to-own helps lower-income families get the same sort of furniture, appliances, and electronics as retail-purchasing customers has also inspired Erin in her approach to classroom teaching.
“As an elementary school teacher, my number one goal will be to help give everyone an equal opportunity to learn,” she affirms. “I believe inclusive education is essential, and I aim to meet the needs of every student in every way possible, both in and out of the classroom. Students should be seen, safe, and appreciated at school as well as at home.”
Erin will graduate with her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education – with endorsements in English as a Second Language, Special Education, and Reading – next spring, and is set to get married next summer. Erin says her APRO scholarship is a true blessing, helping resolve some of her student debt while she plans for her wedding.
Erin is happy to be facing some extraordinary new eras of her life – and honestly, it’s tough to tell whether she’s more thrilled about becoming a spouse or becoming a teacher.
“I’ve always had a heart for helping others, especially kids,” concludes Erin. “I love watching a child learn something new and get excited to learn more. I have a gift for teaching, and I’m in my element when I’m with students in the classroom. I’ve never doubted for even a moment that I’m meant to be a teacher.”
Erin’s is one of the dozens of positive stories that generous donations from the RTO community make happen each year. Click here to learn more and contribute to this invaluable industry effort.