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Students take on family roles during Poverty Simulation

(Photo by: Tyler Brown) Jessica Gee sells her furniture to illegal activities person Greg Norega at the Poverty Simulation held in the ballrooms on Tuesday afternnon.
(Photo by: Tyler Brown) Jessica Gee sells her furniture to illegal activities person Greg Norega at the Poverty Simulation held in the ballrooms on Tuesday afternnon.

Linda and Larry Locke-Louis are living in poverty, with a 15-year-old daughter and a disabled father-in-law. This was one of the simulated families students portrayed during the Poverty Simulation on Tuesday.

The Poverty Simulation is the second poverty-related event Weber State University and the Community Involvement Center have hosted this year.

Each participant was given a person to portray and put into a family based on real-life people. The families were each given a profile, which included goals they had to meet during the simulation, bills to pay and their amount of income. Students could be given the roles of children, adults or disabled elderly.

“(I learned) communication matters just as much as everything else,” said Ariel Heath, a family studies major who participated in the event. “Part of the problem is we were not communicating fast enough. There doesn’t seem to be enough time. I think it’s an exaggeration of real life.”

She said that every time she went to a station at the event, something bad seemed to happen. She said she had to prioritize because when she and her “family” spent money to buy food, they ended up losing their house.

Heath was in the Locke-Louis family. The family ended up getting evicted from their house during the simulation and later had their utilities turned off after getting the house back.

Each family was responsible for paying bills on time, buying food and going to work. Most families also had children they had to send to school every day. The simulation had four parts, each lasting 15 minutes, which represented a month of time.

Greg Noriega, a supply chain management major, acted as the illegal activities person for the event. He stole items from the pawn shop and then sold them to people at discounted prices.

“Some people just wanted more money. Some people, I told them what it was for and they wouldn’t do it; other parents would say, ‘Get away from my children,’” Noriega said. “I guess the sad thing was when I went to parents in the beginning and they would say, ‘Get out,’ and at the end they would say, ‘I need help, so yeah, I’ll hold that for you.’”

Jessica Carlisle ended up getting arrested during the simulation for having illegal bus tickets. She bought them for a discounted price from Noriega.

“I needed to rush; if I wasn’t to work in three minutes, I can’t get paid,” Carlisle said. “I thought I was getting a good deal.”

Madahi Mejia, a medical laboratory science major, acted as the teacher at the public school during the simulation. The students portraying children would get notices that they were pregnant or had ADHD, adding to the families’ medical costs.

“Most don’t have money for supplies or school trips, like our trip to the zoo,” Mejia said.

Social services was another entity available for participants who needed financial help. Taylor Kipp, who worked at the social services table, said the biggest problem the families had was not having the time to fill out the applications and wait.

“I wasn’t expecting people to help as much as they did,” said Jessica Ware, a family studies major. “The food stamps I didn’t think about until the end — that saved us.”

Nick Husted, the faculty and staff liaison in the Community Involvement Center and an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, was one of the people who put the event together.

“It’s to raise awareness,” Husted said. “We just want people to know, to be aware that there are people in the community . . . there are people that are homeless. Once you get a simulated experience of what that’s like, hopefully you’ll be prompted to try and help.”

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