In collaboration with the Astoria School District, the CCC “Ism’s, Obia’s and Us” (IOU) committee offered a poverty simulation workshop on April 26 for CCC faculty and staff.
Representing a broad cross-section of CCC staff, faculty and students, IOU serves as the campus diversity committee; members gather regularly to discuss and promote social justice and cultural competency initiatives.
In the activity, the thirty-four participants role-played the lives of low-income families. The simulation roles included everything from homeless, disabled, veteran senior citizens to single moms, receiving welfare and trying to raise three children under the age of 10, and working on their GED. The goal of the simulation exercise was to survive during the four 15-minute weeks of the workshop. By participating, CCC employees broadened their understanding to better serve individuals who live in poverty.
Trying to provide for the basic necessities and shelter on a limited budget during that time became a stress-provoking task. As Mariah Manners, CCC Technical Services Lead, stated, “I was the sole wage earner for my family of five and by the time we figured out how to play by the “rules” of the game we were so far behind in everything (food, shelter, bills…) that it was impossible to catch up. When I did finally make it to work (which was no small feat) I spent the entire time looking to see if my “husband” was able to wrangle the children up and/or buy our groceries. These were also very difficult tasks and even though I could not help at that moment I was so worried that I could not concentrate on my work.”
At CCC, more than half of all students receive some form of financial aid, and 50% of degree-seeking students receive an average of $3,128 in Pell grant funds. These numbers show that the College serves a large number of people deemed as living in poverty. The workshop offered College employees an opportunity to step into the daily lives of many of their students. CCC’s Recruitment Coordinator Amy Magnussen was a participant who experienced the monumental struggle of living in poverty while attending school.
“I played the role of a 15 year old daughter. My family was struggling to make ends meet, so I contributed by working a part time job at the local grocery,” she says. “This severely limited my ability to participate in extracurricular sports, caused me to be late for school, and over time, exhausted me. By the end of the exercise, I felt isolated from my family and uncertain about our ability to survive long term.”
During the two-hour workshop, the participants interacted with human service agencies, grocers, pawnbrokers, bill collectors, schools, job interviewers, police officers and others.
Although, play money was used, the poverty simulation was not a game. It enabled the participants to look at poverty from a variety of angles and then to recognize and discuss the potential for change within their local communities. The simulation has been designed to sensitize those who frequently deal with low-income families, as well as to create a broader awareness of the realities of poverty among policymakers, community leaders and more.
CCC’s Plus Program, Lives in Transition and the President’s Cabinet co-sponsored the training. For more information about the CCC event, please contact IOU committee member Moria Golub or call 503-338-5740.
For those interested in offering the Poverty Simulation Workshop, please contact Jane Roberts, workshop facilitator and Literacy Coach for the Astoria School District
Clatsop Community College is an affirmative action, equal opportunity institution.
Employee participants grouped into a “family” for the Poverty Simulation Workshop held at Clatsop Community College struggled to pay for daily necessities, including smaller items such as supplies at their children’s school.
As part of the Poverty Simulation Workshop held at CCC, participants encountered all components of the system, including the experience of incarceration.