Thursday, March 29, 2012
Westminster College's Drinko Center for Experiential Learning and the Lawrence County Community Action Partnership (LCCAP) sponsored the sixth annual poverty simulation March 22 in the Witherspoon Rooms of the McKelvey Campus Center.
The first session ran from 3:30-5 p.m. and the second session ran from 5-6:30 p.m. Both sessions were identical. It is estimated that over 150 Westminster students participated.
The goal of the experience was for students to understand the struggles that impoverished individuals face and to help create greater awareness of the impact of poverty, especially in the local area.
Participants took on the roles of individuals living below the federal poverty level. They used community resources to provide food, shelter, clothing, and utilities for four 15-minutes "weeks" during the session. Volunteers, including students in the Scholars in Service to Pennsylvania and AmeriCorps Community Fellows programs and those in Dr. Scott Mackenzie's acting class, assumed the roles of service providers. For the first time, Westminster alumni also volunteered.
"I thought this year's event was very successful, as we had many new underclassmen experiencing it for the first time," said Jeff Ledebur, Drinko Center community service coordinator. "They were thrown into a very different environment because for many of them true poverty is something they most likely have never experienced or had to worry about."
Sarah Carlson, a sophomore early childhood education/special education major, assumed the role of a one-year-child. "Since I was so small, I did not have a true role. However, my parents were responsible for finding childcare services for me, finding a job, and paying the rent on time."
Carlson is a daughter of Eric Haurilesko and Patricia Carlson-Haurilesko of Trafford and a graduate of Penn-Trafford High School.
Junior early childhood education/special education major Caitie Fleckenstein found it to be a challenging experience. "It made me move beyond my preconceived notions about poverty to discover what poverty truly is and its effect on families. I live in an area where I see poverty around me, but being in a simulation gave me a new perspective."
Fleckenstein is a daughter of Kim Fleckenstein of Carnegie and a graduate of Chartiers Valley High School.
"I thought this year's simulation was much more informative," said junior biology major Melanie Perello. "There was little time between the ‘weeks' to accomplish everything we needed to do as a family, but that may be a reality for some people."
Perello is a daughter of Michael and Marie Perello of Poland, Ohio, and a graduate of Ohio Distance Electronic Learning Academy.
Joey Cappitte, a sophomore business administration major, found the simulation to be a great experience. "It gives students a real-life look at what the future may be like for those who will be living below the poverty line. It's definitely a challenge."
Cappitte is a son of Steven and Lorraine Cappitte of Campbell, Ohio, and a graduate of Campbell Memorial High School.
Ledebur appreciates how the event has grown over the years, how students continue to see the value of the exercise and gain a better understanding of what poverty is, and how it affects individuals and families.
"I enjoy how our faculty remains open to encouraging their students to participate," Ledebur added. "It is wonderful to have their support and that of the volunteers, especially Dr. Terri Lenox, who helps guide the process every year, and those from LCCAP."
Lenox, who has been with Westminster since 1999, is associate professor and chair of Westminster's Department of Mathematics and Computer Science.
The Drinko Center for Experiential Learning was created to enrich undergraduate education at Westminster through advancing world-class teaching as well as by participating in collaborations that address community and regional needs. Visit the Drinko website for more information about the Drinko Center and its programs.
Lawrence County Community Action Partnership reaches out to low-income people in Lawrence County to address their multiple needs through a comprehensive approach, develops partnerships with other community organizations, involves low-income clients in the agency's operations, and administers a full range of coordinated programs designed to have a measurable impact on poverty.
Contact Ledebur at (724) 946-6194 or email for more information.