Mount Saint Mary College students experienced the struggles faced by families in need during the Poverty Simulation Experience on Wednesday, November 16.
The simulation was created by the Missouri Community Action Network and was facilitated on the Mount campus by Sonya Abbey Taylor, associate professor of Education and chair of the Division of Education; Zoe Mathews and Nicole Porcelli from the Newburgh Teacher Center; and Lindsay Byer of Poughkeepsie, N.Y, a Poverty Simulation facilitator, Mount Education student, and member of Kappa Delta Pi, the International Honor Society in Education.
According to Taylor, childhood poverty rates are higher in the United States than in any other industrialized country, with nearly half of people living in extreme poverty being 18 years old or younger. Through the three-hour simulation, students and faculty grasped a deeper understanding of the struggles and complexities impoverished families face.
Participants of the Poverty Simulation were either placed into family units where they played the role of a disadvantaged individual, aged anywhere from infancy to adulthood; or they provided services and assistance from organizations like Social Services, child care facilities, schools, and employers, amongst others.
“My role was an interfaith services employee, giving participants cash, clothing, food vouchers, and transportation passes,” said Byer. “I could feel their sense of hopelessness and disappointment if they asked for something I couldn’t give to them; I think many felt overwhelmed since they had obstacles coming at them from every direction.”
Each task consisted of a 15-minute timeframe which represented a whole week for a struggling family. Students were immersed in the frustrations in the everyday life of those in need as they set out to obtain necessities for their families.
“An event like this is important for us in the education field because it offers a glimpse into the lives of children and teens who desperately need our kindness, our empathy, and our respect,” said Byer.