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Widener Students to Participate in Poverty Experience

Forty seven million Americans, 15.5 million of whom are children under the age of 18, live in poverty every day. Many more have incomes above the poverty line, but their incomes are still low enough to qualify for programs like Food Stamps and Medicaid. The recent economic downturn has seen unemployment rates rise and the use of emergency food pantries increase.

It is difficult for a number of people to truly understand the situations that families living in poverty experience every day - the decisions they have to make, and the fears and frustrations they feel. The Widener University's Office of Civic Engagement and School of Nursing want to help students gain a better understanding of the poverty situation impacting our society, which is why they are hosting a Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS) in partnership with the Center for Simulation on Monday, November 2 from 5:30-8 p.m. in Lathem Hall.

Students are invited to walk a mile in the shoes of those facing poverty by participating in the poverty simulation. This learning tool has been created as a way to help people understand the realities of poverty. During the simulation, participants role-play the lives of low-income families. Some are Temporary Assistance for Needy Families recipients, some are disabled, and some are senior citizens on Social Security. They have the stressful task of providing for basic necessities and shelter on a limited budget during the course of four 15-minute "weeks." They interact with human service agencies, grocers, pawnbrokers, bill collectors, job interviewers, police officers and others.

“Although play money is used, it is not a game,” Gretchen Mielke, assistant dean for civic engagement, said. “It is a simulation that enables participants to look at poverty from a variety of angles and then to recognize and discuss the potential for change within their local communities.”

The simulation was designed to sensitize those who frequently deal with low-income families, as well as create a broader awareness of the realities of poverty among policymakers, community leaders and others. It has been made available by the Missouri Association for Community Action.

Participants must RSVP by completing this online reservation:

Questions? Please contact Beatrice Frempong at or Shannon Seace at 

Widener University is a private, metropolitan university that connects curricula to social issues through civic engagement. Dynamic teaching, active scholarship, personal attention, leadership development, and experiential learning are key components of the Widener experience. A comprehensive doctorate-granting university, Widener is comprised of eight schools and colleges that offer liberal arts and sciences, professional and pre-professional curricula leading to associate’s, baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university’s campuses in Chester, Exton, and Harrisburg, Pa., and Wilmington, Del. are proud to be a tobacco-free. Visit the university website,