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Educators get education

Simulation drives home lessons in  perils of poverty

It is tough enough to "walk a mile in someone's shoes" to get a glimpse into their lives, but what about living as someone else for a month, especially if the person is facing hunger and possible homelessness?

That is what approximately 100 Lawton Public School educators, staff and community agency individuals did during the recent, morning-long Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS) event at Douglass Learning Center. The school district, in coordination with the Oklahoma Association of Community Action Agencies, sponsored and conducted the event. 

CAPS is a tool used to promote "poverty awareness, increase understanding and inspire local change," said Sheryl White, director of operations at Comanche Community Action Partnership at the Great Plains Improvement Foundation. The participants take on new identities for the morning and in 15-minute sections learn firsthand about the daily stresses and challenges faced by people in poverty or near poverty. 

"The experience shows what it means to live in poverty using a simulation, but it isn't a game," White said, adding that the scenarios are real life scenarios of what struggling families face all the time. 

The simulation 

After Michael Jones, executive director of the Oklahoma Association of Community Action Agencies, briefed the group, "family members" settled into their "homes," which consisted of four chairs, each set grouped together in the middle of the Douglass Learning Center gym. All around the perimeter of the gym were tables with signs indicating 15 community resource agencies or businesses, such as the police department, pawn shop, utility company, illegal activities person, day care, health care, food store and bank. Those manning the tables were school district staff members and other real community resource employees who learned about their roles the night before the event. 

Don't leave your money or valuables in your homes, Jones reminded the participants. 

The "families" read through their packets, learned who they were and their family situations and discovered what they had in terms of money and transportation passes and donned their identification cards and picked up their children, which were represented by bears and dolls. Family situations included those who were grandparents raising grandchildren, working parents, single-parent households, elderly adults and young adults caring for underage sibling. 

At one "home," Crosby Park Elementary principal Dana Moore found out she was Katerina Kozlowski, a single mother without a high school degree or car, and Central Middle School counselor Jerry Slawson played Kevin Kaminski, Kozlowski's boyfriend, who is the primary breadwinner. 

At another home, Marty McKelvey, Pat Henry Elementary counselor, took on the role of Albert Aber, an unemployed computer programmer with three kids. Oscar Costa, Lincoln Elementary principal, took on the role of the "city's" only policeman, primarily looking for cases of child abuse and neglect. Sunny Ledford, who teaches at Edison Elementary, took on the role of a grandmother, who along with a grandfather was raising two school-age elementary school children. 

The Lawton Constitution

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