A Different Perspective

GWU Students Experience Poverty Through Simulation Exercise

A Different Perspective

For two hours, Gardner-Webb University freshman Autumn Richards experienced a life of poverty. While her situation was pretend, the struggle she felt was real. “It’s hard, and I’m not ready to adult,” shared Richards, of Gastonia, N.C., a freshman biology major with biomedical sciences concentration.

She was one of 30 students who participated in the poverty simulation event sponsored by the GWU Counseling Center and The IMPACT Center. During the activity held on Nov. 12 in Tucker Student Center, each student was assigned to play the role of a family member living in poverty. The ages ranged from toddlers to adults. The students interacted with 20 volunteers who pretended to be agency vendors, such as social services, the school, bank, landlord, utility company, grocery store and others.

Richards played an unemployed, 20-year-old mother who faced the problem of finding appropriate care for her 1-year-old. During the simulation, social services put her daughter into foster care. “It’s an eye-opener,” she said. “I’m learning that it’s not the same for everyone.”

Piper Barnes, a senior computer information systems major from Boiling Springs, S.C., was given the role of a pregnant 16-year-old. “Anytime you can change your perspective, it is beneficial,” Barnes reflected. “I’m seeing my (pretend) parents struggle and learning that there is not enough time to get everything done. It’s a cycle and more things just pile on.”

Other students shared similar reactions, which was the goal of the exercise, said Michael Taub, a University counselor with the GWU Counseling Center. “It’s hard for students to see outside of their own little bubble,” he observed. “We hope they will think about poverty differently and view it differently. And, If they know someone who is in that situation, they will step up and help them.”

Learn more about the GWU Counseling Center