I love standing in line at government agencies, said no one ever.
This week, the Junior Leadership group got to mix it up with the Signature Class in the now legendary Poverty Simulation. Participants received new identities and worked together to survive a simulated month of poverty. They had to grapple with transportation and employment issues, eviction, and sometimes even theft. For the students, the constant lines and lack of time to complete mundane tasks like cashing checks or paying bills were a source of great frustration. “I showed up to pay my utilities and they were closed!” one participant practically wailed.
Although meant to be intentionally stressful, some bright spots emerged. The simulation helped demonstrate the challenges people face as well as the life lines that exist right here in Medina County. The agency, 2-1-1, run by United Way, offered help in a variety of situations.
“They told me which agency I needed to go to,” said one relieved participant who had lost his social security card and didn’t know what to do.
Students debriefed afterward about their experiences and the lessons learned.
I will leave you with comments from one of the Junior’s evaluations:
“I really enjoyed the poverty simulation. It was fun playing an 8 year old boy, but it also put things in perspective. I never realized how challenging life was for people in poverty. Even $3 for school supplies was a struggle. It was also hard for our father to get a new job after being laid off because he was constantly trying to meet with social services, quick cash, the mortgage company, etc. Our mother had to work and grocery shop, which took the whole time. As a child in the simulation, I had no parental supervision and I felt like my parents didn’t even acknowledge me. I realized that kids in poverty might have no supervision and could pretty much do whatever they want. Another thing I learned was how many resources are actually available for people in poverty in Medina County, such as the 211. Overall, I thought the poverty simulation was a great eye-opening experience.”