March 2019 News

Academy Seniors Participate in Poverty Simulation

Friday, March 22, 2019

Academy seniors participate in a poverty simulation in the Student Center Ballroom
Academy seniors participate in a poverty simulation in the Student Center Ballroom.

As part of the Senior Colloquium “Topics and Perspective in Economics,” approximately 120 Academy seniors participated in a poverty simulation presented by Second Harvest Food Bank on Tuesday, March 19. During the two-hour simulation, the students were divided into around 40 families who each had to deal with limited resources, increased stress, and other situations faced by the economically disadvantaged. The simulation, conducted by Ms. Dorica Watson from Second Harvest, was divided into four fifteen-minute “weeks” during which the students had to work (or try to find work), pay their rent or mortgage, shop for food, ensure that their children attended school or were otherwise cared for, and try not to run afoul of the law.

Students purchasing food at simulated store
A group of students make purchases at the “Realville” superstore.

Over the course of the program, students quickly learned how difficult “real life” can be to manage when faced with resource insecurity, and how poverty and stress can force people to make choices that they wouldn’t otherwise make. From time to time, Ms. Watson would hand out “Bad News” cards piling on additional hardships for the students to face, based on her real experiences helping the economically disadvantaged.

Mr. John Marsh, co-instructor of the Colloquium course, helped to organize the event. A number of Academy juniors ran the local businesses in “Realville” which included a bank, employers, a superstore, a homeless shelter, a realtor, the utility company, a school, a pawn shop, a payday loan provider, police, social services, and a community action agency. At the end of the simulation, all of the participants gathered to share their experiences, which Ms. Watson helped to relate to the real experiences of those dealing with resource insecurity.