VERMILLION, SD -
Wednesday, some South Dakota teenagers got to experience what it's like to live in poverty. They used pretend scenarios and fake money to buy food and provide for their "families," but the simulation was anything but a game.
In one afternoon, Tucker Volesky went from being a 17-year-old high school student to a grown man with responsibilities.
"Right now, I have a girlfriend. We have a kid. We live in a mobile home. She's unemployed so it's my responsibility to provide for my family," Volesky said.
He and around two-dozen other teenagers are attending the South Dakota Youth Congress
in Vermillion, and the poverty simulation is one of the workshops.
“You have a scenario, here's what your budget is, here's what you get paid and that's about all we tell them,” Barbara Garcia, who facilitates the simulation, said. “They have to figure out how to make it happen."
They must go to work, pay bills and figure out transportation. Each "trip" costs the teens a transportation pass, so they have to stock up and it's not always easy.
"I just got paid. I don't even have food or anything, and I'm already out of money," Volesky said.
Garcia is Rapid City's community development manager, and she brings the simulation to groups just like this all over the state.
"I want them to learn poverty doesn't mean people are stupid. Poverty doesn't mean it's a lifelong thing,” Garcia said. “Better choices and decisions, and the importance of helping each other."
Volesky says the demonstration is a real eye-opener for him.
"It's very educational in the fact that it helps you understand what people in poverty go through," Volesky said.
And everyone's role in helping out.
Despite a rough start, Volesky actually ended up with some cash on hand by the end.
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