The poverty simulation at Mount Saint Mary College drew a large crowd of participants on Wednesday, November 6.
Through a poverty simulation event held on the Mount Saint Mary College campus, about 100 participants got a glimpse into the harsh conditions faced by those in need.
Held just a few weeks before Thanksgiving, the event was sponsored by the Mount Saint Mary College Division of Education, the Newburgh Teacher Center, the Mount’s Sigma Tau chapter of Kappa Delta Pi, and the Mount’s Catholic Relief Services Student Ambassadors.
Divided into groups based on typical make-ups of struggling families, participants were tasked with surviving a simulated four-week period. Survival entailed keeping one’s home, keeping the utilities on, and feeding one’s family.
Additionally, participants were asked to act out the roles they were assigned. For example, a child would complain if not fed, a teenager would not want to sit at home all day, and a single parent would try their absolute best to provide for their children.
Stations were set up around the simulated space and included a social services office, a general employment office, a grocery store, a school, and other community essential organizations.
Since many struggling families do not have adequate access to transportation, participants needed to submit one-time-use transportation passes with each visit to a station.
Several groups of participants were evicted from their homes not even halfway into the simulation, and many other groups received warnings from their landlords and utility companies and notices regarding their family’s nutrition.
Participants quickly realized the inherent difficulties of escaping poverty and the effects poverty can have on the entire family. Sonya Abbye Taylor, an associate professor of Education at the Mount and a key organizer of the simulation, noted the importance of these realizations: “Poverty affects us all, and if we truly understand the impact of poverty, we will find ways – small and large – to make a difference in peoples’ lives,” said Taylor.
As an education professor, Taylor also noted that understanding poverty can make for better teachers.
“Educators aware of children in their classes living in poverty will better understand when homework isn’t done or when a student’s attention wanders, when they are unkempt, or when they are late or absent from school,” she said. “They will know the circumstances that could be causing these results, and they begin to take steps that can help, not punish students.”