Today, my name was William. William Wiscott. I spent an hour as William, a seven-year-old boy who is one of the millions in the United States facing poverty. William was recently diagnosed with ADHD, and lives with his grandparents and his nine-year-old sister, Whitney, in a small Missouri town. Throughout this hour, I, along with over 50 other students and faculty, partook in poverty simulations that were based off of true stories.
On the seventh floor of the library, the participants of the poverty simulation ran back and forth from school, to work, and for those who were unlucky, to the juvenile detention center.
The simulation began with a basic description of the family that each participant was designated to join. Small groups ranging from one to six people carried out the roles of each different person within each different household selected. Selections were chosen at random upon entering the simulation. The goal of the simulation was to have every participant understand how difficult it is to live on or below the poverty line, and explain to students and professors that these issues are real.
After the hour was up, participants were given the opportunity to speak about how hard their life was. Curtis Anderson, a master’s student in social studies, was quick to explain how difficult his experience was.
“Our family fell apart after the first week,” said Anderson. “Our grandparents used all of their bus passes in the first 15 minutes, so they couldn’t go to work for the remainder of the simulation. We ultimately died and were evicted.”
Anderson, who was simulated to be Whitney Wiscott, William’s nine-year-old sister, was wounded by the fact that children’s lives can be so difficult. However, he understands how common these issues can be, especially in the greater Baltimore area. He currently works as an intern at Meade Middle School, and explained how events similar to that of the Wiscott family do occur.
“Many of the kids live on farm mills and come from impoverished backgrounds, unfortunately,” he said.
Amanda Socarras, a junior psychology major, acted as Winona Wiscott, the 50-year-old grandmother. Socarras, who works part-time at Hilton elementary in Baltimore, explained how these issues that the Wiscott family faces are common at the school where she teaches.
“I came to learn how impoverished families have to live, and many of the kids at Hilton come from impoverished backgrounds like the Wiscotts,” said Socarras.
But this event was put together to bring more awareness to impoverished communities, and to help those who have trouble coping with poverty. Heidi Foust, the associate director of TSOL professional training programs in the education department, works on the diversity committee with a goal to inform teachers on how to deal with students from diverse backgrounds.
“Many teachers come from privileged backgrounds, and don’t know how to deal with students from diverse backgrounds,” said Faust with confidence. “We want teachers to be compassionate with their students and help them overcome these barriers.”
The actual program, known as “Missouri’s Community Action Poverty Simulation,” has been growing ever since it began in 2012, and it expects to have college and universities in all 50 states participating by the end of the year.