LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. -- On a frigid Friday night when so many teenagers were inside warm shopping malls, at the movies or perhaps just at home, several dozen students from Lee's Summit were participating in what they call a "life-changing project."
"It's definitely interesting living in this box," said 18-year-old Neha Dixit, a senior at Lee's Summit West High School.
Friday night Neha and several of her schoolmates spent the 17-degree night sitting in cardboard boxes, huddling in blankets and standing around a small fire.
"To do something like this isn't comparable to people who have to spend it out here all season," said Dixit.
"I can help them in whatever way I can," said Savanah Thorne, a senior at Lee's Summit West.
About 60 students from the Lee's Summit High School, Lee's Summit North and West were shivering for "Freeze Out." The brave, young souls spent four hours in below-freezing temperatures to get a glimpse of what it's like to be homeless or needy in this bone chilling, cold conditions.
The students also collected lots of coats, sweaters, all kinds of winter clothing to donate to charities. The boys and girls had a great incentive to encourage donations: they were only allowed to put on clothes or blankets that were donated.
The students' Freeze Out annual event is a reality for 15% of Americans, 47 million people who live at or below the poverty line, according to a recent study. Researchers also report approximately 3.5 million people experience homelessness each year. More than one million of those are children.
"It definitely cuts you to the bone and to imaging living like that every day, it's just mind-blowing, " said A.J. Cott, from Lee's Summit High School.
"I'm glad we did this. It really has taught me what they have to go through. We are so blessed," said Catie Adams, also a senior at Lee's Summit High.