Micah Mandate

The Magazine of the J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice at Trevecca Nazarene University.

Students live voluntarily in poverty for two hours

Posted by admin November - 14 - 2012 - Wednesday

92 students participated in a pretend situation where students acted out what a month of life in poverty could be like.


“There was a little bit of stress, a lot of scaredness. There was a lot of crazy stuff going on. A lot of robberies and drug selling around us. And, um, hunger. We all felt hungry for a while,” said Aubrey Wessel, a freshman.


The simulation, held in the Tarter Student Activity Center (TSAC) was to give students a place to have a very mild experience of what families in poverty go through on a weekly

Brent Tallman giving instructions to the participants.



“I think this simulation allows us in a very brief and over simplified way to experience what living in poverty might feel like in our culture,” said Brent Tallman, director of campus spiritual formation and overseer of the simulation, in an e-mail.


Students were grouped as multiple families and had to act out their role in four 15-minute segments, which were each representing one month.


The families had to try and live their life with resources they given, like food vouchers, bus passes and money.


14 volunteers each day, consisting of students and faculty, ran different social agencies and business for the families to go to. Some of these were a grocery store, a pawnshop, a school, a welfare office, a food pantry and a drug dealer.


“I didn’t really act like a three year old,” said Zach Blackmore, whose role was a 3 year old son.


“He did everything for me,” said Zade Gundling, who was initially the mother of the family but gave the role to Wessel because it was so stressful.


At first, students were trying to live in a way that was responsible and moral, but as time went on, they became more willing to do things they wouldn’t ever believe they would do to make money.


“It was scary because of the place I was in and the people surrounding me and how I scare myself because of what I would succumb to to get money. I made him buy me cocaine. My three year old son,” said Wessel.


This wasn’t the first time Trevecca has hosted a poverty simulation.


The first was held in 2007 and was led by Patsy Watkins of the Williamson County Extension Service, a subsidiary of the University of Tennessee.


The last one was held in 2009 and had 159 students participate.


“When we offer it in the future we are going to try another evening slot to see if that allows more students to participate versus the Tuesday morning session,” said Tallman.

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