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Ozarks Students Participate in Poverty Simulation
Missouri Ag Connection - 05/17/2018

College of the Ozarks and Ozarks Area Community Action Corporation (OACAC) hosted a poverty simulation on campus.

The goal of the simulation was to develop an understanding of the challenges faced by those in poverty and equip students to face those challenges.

According to the OACAC website, the purpose of the poverty simulation is to "promote poverty awareness, increase understanding of the challenges faced by individuals living in poverty, and inspire local change to overcome the effects of poverty."

"The simulation developed both understanding and empathy, so students can more specifically serve individuals that may be facing challenges associated with situational or generational poverty," said Colleen Hardy, associate professor of education. "When the students were 'evicted' from their home you could see their frustration and watch them problem solve as they worked to take care of their family."

The simulation consisted of an hour broken into 15 minute sections, each representing one week. Each student received a new identity for the simulation and visited different stations representing aspects of life.

"We wanted to provide the students with a meaningful experience to help them truly understand families that may experience situational or generational poverty," Hardy said. "Our hope is that students will be better equipped to serve families as a childcare worker, an educator, or a social worker."

Forty-six students from three education classes participated in the event. Before the simulation, each class studied how poverty impacts families and education.

"Many of us grew up in middle class households, so we don't realize how hard it is for people in poverty to get out of poverty," said Shelby Dockery, junior elementary education major. "We just think 'if you work hard enough that you can climb out of that situation,' but it's really not that easy."

"We have to understand there's a lot more going on in the lives of those parents and those kids than what we see at school," said Haley Stallings, junior elementary education major. "Whenever we have a kid that's blowing up, frustrated, or sleeping in our class, we have to understand what their home life may be like. Through the simulation, we saw how stressful it was. There wasn't enough time in the day. You really sympathize with those families and look for resources that you can connect them with to help them better themselves, better their future, or partner with them instead of being resentful for how their kid acts or how they treat you."

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