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Alpena High students get a taste of poverty with simulation

News Photo by Julie Goldberg Ashley Simpson, community service trooper with the Michigan State Police, talks with Alpena High School students who were “arrested” during the school’s poverty simulation on Friday.

ALPENA — Alpena High School students and staff on Friday experienced what it was like to live in poverty.

The Missouri Community Action Network Poverty Simulation visited the school and allowed both students and staff to step into the shoes of people living in poverty. They were all given a new identity and a budget of $200 for one month.

Katie Reck, associate professor of family studies at Central Michigan University, said the simulation is about empathy and people understanding what it’s like to live in poverty.

“Some students have lived in poverty, and then a bunch haven’t, and how do we give them that experience in a safe place that they can feel some of those stressors, those challenges, but while maintaining that they’re still not actually in some of these real hard circumstances?” Reck said.

During the simulation, different situations were thrown at the students and staff. Some students were arrested for various things, some were evicted from where they live, and some had to care for the giant families they had.

Students found the experience of living in poverty to be stressful. Senior Olivia Smith said she was stressed and anxious to only have $200 for a month, but the experience gave her an appreciation about what it’s like for those who live in poverty.

“I’m sure it’s hard,” she said. “You have to do everything that you can for your family, I’m sure that’s not easy. Parents just make it look so easy, but there’s actually a lot you have to do. I don’t have to worry about it, I don’t have kids or anything, but I’m sure when the day comes, yeah. You have to put your needs before your wants.”

November is Homeless Awareness Month and Reck said the simulation brings people together to participate.

“We have the schools, we have freshmen, sophomores, seniors, we have one of the real police officers here, we have community members here, we have Senior Citizens Center individuals here,” Reck said. “This really brings a community together to say, ‘Hey, let’s really educate about this issue.'”

Volunteers from the Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Michigan State Police, different bank representatives, and others were at the event.

Julie Goldberg can be reached at 989-358-5688 or jgoldberg@thealpenanews.com. Follow her on Twitter @jkgoldberg12.