Educators, school staff and community leaders from Highland, Clinton, Adams, Brown and Fayette counties gathered Monday morning at the Hopewell Center in New Market for a chance to see life through the eyes of those living in poverty.
In an effort to better relate with students and parents, the group came together for the “Cost of Poverty Experience,” a simulation demonstrating the many challenges faced by impoverished individuals and families.
A conference room set aside for the event at the Hopewell Center was filled with groups of chairs representing “households” of several participants, and tables around the perimeter that represented banks, government services, employers, a police department and other community entities.
Participants were assigned personal information and restrictive financial parameters, then tasked with surviving everyday life for timed intervals.
The simulation included details to make it feel realistic, such as a “thief” who would steal participants’ belongings while they were away from their households.
By the end, a few people were rendered homeless after they ran out of money.
Kim Adams, one of the event coordinators, told The Times-Gazette after the event that the simulation seemed to have a visible effect on the participants.
“We saw the frustration, the stress of living in poverty,” Adams said.
Adams, who works for the Southern Ohio Educational Service Center, said the overall goal of the simulation was to give area educators an opportunity to better understand the plight of students and parents who live in poverty, and to spur school districts into action.
“One of the things we would like to see is school districts making commitments to change,” Adams said.
After the simulation wrapped up, groups assigned by county gathered in different conference rooms to come up with concrete plans for their districts to improve services for economically disadvantaged students and families.
Stephanie Wagoner of the Brown County Education Service Center, who also helped plan the event, said she was pleased with the turnout and overall experience.
“We had a good variety of people to simulate the experience of poverty so they can relate with the kids,” she said.
According to a report on statewide poverty prepared by the Ohio Development Services Agency in January 2017, 20.2 percent of the total population of Highland County lives in poverty.
A report distributed to participants at the event showed 1,460 students at Hillsboro City School District, 61.4 percent of total enrollment, were economically disadvantaged in the 2016-2017 school year.
According to the report, in Greenfield Exempted Village Schools, 56.7 percent of students were economically disadvantaged during the same time frame, while 32.7 percent of students in Fairfield Local School District, 42 percent of students in Lynchburg-Clay Local School District and 60.9 percent of students in Bright Local Schools experienced the same.
For more information on poverty in the local education system, visit www.southernohioesc.org.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.