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Students at Neligh-Oakdale High School experienced a month in poverty during a poverty simulation Tuesday morning.
Hailey Bixler, state FCCLA officer for Neligh-Oakdale, first experienced the poverty simulation at a district FCCLA leadership conference and thought it would be a great idea to bring back to students at Neligh-Oakdale.
“Hailey was like, ‘This would be fun,’ so we went ahead and talked to administration and we told them that it would cost a little bit of money to bring it in and what it was about, and they okayed it,” Kim Scarborough, N-O FCCLA advisor, said.
She noted that it just worked out that the simulation was available during FCCLA week.
The Community Action Poverty Simulation is designed for students to experience what it’s like living a full month in poverty. During the simulation, students are assigned families, and each family member is given a specific role - whether that be mom, dad, brother, grandpa, baby sister, etc.
Before the simulation, the students learned what poverty is, the types of poverty and poverty guidelines.
In the simulation, each week is 15 minutes long and the weekends are three minutes long. During that time, families must keep their shelter or find shelter, report to work or school, buy the required amount of food each week, pay all utility bills and loans, and pay for clothing and other expenses.
Each family is given a resource packet which contains a description of family roles, possessions such as a microwave or stove, nametags, identification documents and other resources like transportation passes.
Teachers acted as community resource providers during the simulation. Community resources consisted of a bank, paycheck advance, health care, child care, school, pawn shop, landlord, police station, grocery store, employment office and homeless shelter.
While trying to survive a month in poverty, students also had to respond to unexpected events such as having to leave work to pick up a sick child from school or going to jail because their child was taken by child protective services.
In order to pay for necessities, most families opted to visit Big Dave’s Pawn Shop to pawn items. Others resorted to stealing possessions from neighbors.
Jennifer Hanson, 4-H and Youth Development Extension Educator in Thurston County was on hand to oversee the simulation.
She noted that during the first week, only two of the families had bought groceries.
“I think the thing that i notice the most is that a lot of these kids take for granted the food,” she said.
“Our hope is that by going through the simulation where they’re living a month in poverty...they’ll have a better understanding of what those families go through, but also then it’s out hope that they’ll take what they’ve learned and find a way to help those in their community.”