HUMBOLDT - Humboldt High School economics students will observe National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week Monday through Friday with a series of activities and events intended to create awareness of the issues.
The 67 seniors taking Brenda Rush's classes were inspired by a book they're studying, "The Soloist" by Steve Lopez.
"It's a true story about a journalist who meets a person who lives on the street," Rush said. "Through the context of economics we're looking at the issues of hunger and homelessness."
The students are planning several activities. First, each of the 67 students will participate in constructing a tent city on the school's lawn, building makeshift homes from boxes, tents or any available material, Rush said. Different segments of the homeless population will be represented.
"It's going to proportionally represent the different groups, like veterans. There will be different symbols on each of the displays that represent the groups," she said. "And then they are planning and arranging tours of different groups during the week."
For Monday, one group of students has coordinated a Faces of Homelessness Panel featuring local elected officials and guest speaker Steve Rowe, director of the Beacon of Hope men's shelter in Fort Dodge.
For Friday, another group has planned a Pick a Card, Eat or Starve event. Students volunteer with a freewill donation draw a color-coded card at lunch, with each color representing a different social class.
"They'll get a different amount of lunch based on which socioeconomic class they're in," Rush said. "Some students will receive very little lunch that day, some will get a normal lunch, and some will be upper class and get the most of all, a full lunch plus extra."
A fourth event allows students to become an advocate by contacting a local legislator and setting up a face to face meeting to discuss the topics of homelessness, hunger, poverty and then propose some sort of action on the government's part, Rush said.
While all students are participating in the tent city, they had the choice of which other event they wanted to participate in.
Rush said the activities are a good way to directly impact the lessons of the book they're studying, rather than simply writing an essay or doing a research paper.
"We are not done with the book, but we knew we're going to wrap it up somehow. So, we thought about observing National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week was a good way to do it," she said. "This just fit more with what I wanted to get across to them."
Rush hopes the events will inspire her students in their future endeavors.
"I wanted to show them that with that knowledge they have now and the passion they have for this cause or whatever cause that might be in their life, they can put that together and inspire other people to do something," she said.
Homelessness is an important issue, Rush said, even in rural areas.
"A lot of people don't think of it as being in rural areas, so that's one of the things the students have learned," she said. "About 9 percent of homeless people are in rural areas. It just doesn't necessarily fit the stereotypes that people have of the homeless, on the street, living like that, but we do have homeless people in our area and the counties surrounding us."
The studies also address a broader issue with hunger and homelessness.
"Beyond that, that broader issue is, do you have to know someone who's homeless, who's going through that, to care about an issue?" Rush asked. "I don't think you have to have the personal tragedy or event in your life before you can care and feel empathy for people that are in different situations than what you are."