Published March 22, 2023
Tenth through 12th grade students at St. Joseph High School in Conway participated in a poverty simulation March 6. The purpose of the simulation was to bridge the gap between misconceptions and the reality of poverty. It was organized by Don Greenland, coordinator of the St. Joseph Church Missions Outreach Ministry, and Christy Trantina, director of adult faith formation ministry. Adults were recruited to represent various organizations the poor visit, including employment offices, social service agencies, banks, grocery stores, childcare centers, police departments, health care centers and utility companies.
The students were randomly divided into small groups to role play the real-life challenges that low-income families face. Sophomore Izzie Garrett portrayed an 85-year-old arthritic woman living on a $552-a-month retirement check and another $600 of regular income.
"I am trying my best, but I don't have any family so it's pretty difficult," she said.
Greenland said, "The object of this experience was to sensitize all of us to the day-to-day realities of the people that are facing low income and other situations of poverty. It was also meant to motivate us to become involved in activities which help to reduce the poverty in our city, our county, our state and even in our country."
Trantina was effusive in her praise of the results.
"Our team of 20 adults were impressed with the St. Joseph students,” she said. “They were put in a stressful situation and they handled it beautifully. They problem-solved, they were respectful, and they never rebelled, got angry or gave up. We feel that their eyes were opened to a world outside of themselves."
In Conway, 18 percent of the population falls below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census.
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