Tenth through 12th graders experienced this eye-opening  look at poverty.

    Tenth through 12th grade students at St.Joseph High School experienced a poverty simulation on March 6th. Poverty is hard to understand unless one experiences it. The purpose of the simulation was to bridge the gap between misconceptions and the reality of poverty. It was organized by Don Greenland, the Coordinator of the St. Joseph Church Missions Outreach Ministry, and Christy Trantina, the Director of St. Joseph's Adult Faith Formation Ministry. Many adults were recruited representing various organizations the poor might seek help from such as employment offices, social service agencies, banks, food stores, child care centers, police departments, health care centers, utility companies and others.  

    The students were randomly divided into small groups each of which role-played a month of poverty dealing with real-life challenges that low-income families face. Sophomore Izzie Garrett took the part of an 85 year-old arthritic woman living off a $552-a-month retirement check and another $600 of regular income. "I am trying my best, but I don't have any family so it's pretty difficult," she said. Junior Ashlynne Vote was given the role of a 36 year-old woman living with her husband, an invalid mother-in-law, and a teen-aged daughter. The husband's insufficient income was all they had. The family recently agreed to  foster an infant child for $40 a month from social services. "We have to pay $1,600 in bills," Vote said.  "We had no money for this nor any reliable transportation. My husband had to go to a pawn shop to raise extra cash." This is a small sampling of what the students ran into. 
  "The object of this experience was to sensitize  all of us to the day-to-day realities of the people that are facing low income and other situations of poverty," Greenland said. "It was also meant to motivate us to become involved in activities which help to reduce the poverty in our city, our county, our state and even in our country." Trantina was effusive in her praise of the results. "Our Poverty Simulation was amazing," she said " "Our team of 20 adults were impressed with the St. Joseph students. They were put in a stressful situation and they handled it beautifully. They problem-solved, they were respectful, and they never rebelled, got angry or gave up. We feel that their eyes were opened to a world outside of themselves." 
  One footnote. That "world outside" is not far away. The U.S. poverty level for a four-person household is $26,000. In Conway, 16% of its population falls into that category. Homelessness is also a problem in Faulkner County. More than 800 students in Conway, Greenbrier, Vilonia and Mayflower Schools don't have a stable home to live in.