SPRINGFIELD, Ohio (WDTN) – A professional development workshop here put school staff in the shoes of many of their students.
Friday, a group of employees from Springfield City School District took part a Cost of Poverty Experience (COPE).
“Their students are coming to school… bringing with them the challenges, anxieties and fears (of poverty,” explained Ed Leventhal, school board president for Springfield City Schools.
The event, created by Springfield-based company Think Tank, Inc., simulated one month of living in poverty, by assigning each participant an identity, a family and set of challenging circumstances.
“(It helps with) discovering some of our biases, perhaps, or stereotypes of people in poverty,” said Think Tank, Inc. development director John White.
After families took on their assigned roles, they had four 15 minute increments to complete common tasks like grocery shopping, applying for jobs, finding transportation and child care.
The simulation also presented set-backs common to families in poverty, like health issues, homelessness or jail time.
Many of the educators said the exercise broadened their perspectives.
“It’s eye-opening to people who don’t understand what our kids go through just to come to school every day,” said Ashley Wilson, the lead nurse for Springfield City School District.
Representative Warren Davidson (R-OH 8) stopped by the event and said he was intrigued to see if the concept could help build trust between schools and students in poverty.
“It’s not just an awareness of poverty,” Rep. Davidson said. “It’s an awareness that somebody cares and is paying attention.”
The training was tailored to emulate specific demographics in Springfield and aligned with the school district’s strategic plan of trauma-informed care and positive behavioral interventions.