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Students Learn About Living with Poverty

The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

April  7, 2014

Students learn about living with poverty

By Chris Boyd Register-Herald Reporter

— According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than one in four West Virginia children lives below the federal poverty line, the 13th highest poverty rate in the nation.
Students from eighth through 12th grade at St. Francis de Sales Grade School took part, Sunday afternoon, in a simulation of what it would be like to live in a poverty-stricken family.
The students were divided randomly and assigned different income levels and family situations. They were then asked to make decisions about how to spend what little money they had in their budgets.
Lisa Killmer, a member of the West Virginia Diocesan School Board, described the simulation as an exercise in compassion.
“They have to make real life decisions in extreme poverty situations. It’s a lesson for them to learn to have some compassion for those who are in those circumstances and also to help them understand what people face as adults in their life.”
Tony Michael, WVU Extension associate professor and program leader for the Institute for Labor Studies and Research, led the simulation.
“We are partnering with Catholic Charities of West Virginia on this program. We provide the simulation to interested parties all throughout the state. The goal is to help people to better understand what it’s actually like to live in a low-income family. The roles and responsibilities range from children to the elderly,” Michael said. “The way it is set up, there are different family orientations. When we debrief, they will all get to talk about what their experience was like making ends meet. Sometimes they can’t, because the income just doesn’t actually meet the self-sufficiency standards for West Virginia.”

Carol Bailey, interim southern regional director of Catholic Charities W.Va., said she had high hopes for the students involved.
“It’s a collaboration with Lisa from St. Francis de Sales, Catholic Charities and the WVU Extension Office that is just trying to educate youth on what a lot of low-income families deal with every day and hopefully they will take something away from this and will get out in the community and do something to change things. That’s our goal.”
For more information on the simulation and other resources, contact the WVU Extension Service at www.ext.wvu. edu.
— E-mail:cboyd@register-herald.com