HOLLISTER, Mo. -- Freshmen at Hollister High School got a taste of the real world during the Reality Enhancement and Life Lessons Simulation.
"We're just basically having a fake life and just acting it out," Freshman Marlene Perez said.
The students were faced with real-life scenarios and they had to decide how to handle them.
"I was 17, I had two kids, I had a ticket for DUI," Freshman Ronny Daniels said. "You have to pay all your bills and rent and stuff."
"I have to pay for child care and I don't have a job so I have to go get a job. It was just really hard," Perez said.
Counselors at Hollister High say the exercise isn't intended to be easy.
"Just to see them start to get stressed about, 'I don't know what to do, I don't know what services are available.' So, it starts a good conversation," Kezra Chamberlin said.
During the simulation, students had to visit different pretend places like the police station, the unemployment office, and the bank.
From feeling the financial pressure to paying the price for their actions, the 14 and 15 year old students saw the chain reaction of their choices.
"Seeing when they have a steady job, there's not those barriers. And staying in school," Chamberlin said.
Chamberlin says it's important to teach young people the power of good life decisions.
"It's really good to see that it's not going to be easy if you do drop out of high school. So, it makes us push through high school even when it gets tough," Perez said.
They are lessons that can help break poverty cycles and lead to life-long success.
"Helps them understand to make good choices in life," Chamberlin said.
The Reality Enhancement and Life Lessons project is free to the school. OACAC provides the service to the community to try and head off the causes and conditions of poverty.