College students stretch beyond the classroom for a lesson on real-world poverty

Justin Udo
November 14, 2018 - 1:51 pm

Rui G. Santos |


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — For Andrew Proctor, a senior communications major at Widener University, going through the school's poverty workshop was a life-changing experience. The university's poverty simulation lets students assume the role of a low-income family member living on a limited budget.

"It really opened my eyes to people who may be living in poverty, and it made me want to do different events that will generate awareness for people in poverty," Proctor said.

Tuesday's program put students in the shoes of people living below the poverty line, by presenting them with different circumstances and issues they must face and overcome.

"You can talk about it, and you can conceptualize this a lot, but it's a lot different that you're actually being a part of it, and you're actually feeling what it feels like to be in poverty and feeling like the world is out to get you," Proctor said.

He took part in the event last year, and was so moved by it, he decided to start volunteering at his local Boys and Girls Club.

"You leave this simulation with a feeling of just wanting to do better for your community," he said.

Dawn Ferry, the director of the Center for Simulation and Computerized Testing at Widener says they conduct this exercise to help students realize there are people living right, down the street from them, going through difficult times, and they can always show a little more empathy.                

"I hope they take away that there's ways to help people out there in poverty and that they have a little more compassion for those people," Ferry said. 

It may be working for student Yesha Patel.

"There was always things that happened that were out of your control and you think that everything that will go well, and it doesn't go well and that's really frustrating," Patel said.

Patel says the experience is humbling and made her look at life with a whole new perspective.

"A lot of people have the common misconception that people who are in poverty are just lazy and they don't work hard, and some people say it's a budgeting issue," she said. "But it doesn't matter if you budget or you don't budget. It's still really hard once you're in poverty."

She said she thinks that the program should be more widespread.

"I feel like every school should have this. I didn't realize what it was until you go through a simulation like this, and you experience it first hand."