College students experience "poverty" in real-life simulation

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - According to the U.S. Census, in 2011 nearly 1 in 5 Tennesseans were considered to be living in poverty.

Despite those statistics many people are unaware of the difficulties poor people face.

Saturday students at East Tennessee State University took part in a hands-on learning experience showing them what it's like to struggle financially.

Long lines at social service offices.

Eviction notices.

And rising food and medical costs.

Are just a few of the realities many poor face on a daily basis.

But for "one" hour Saturday these students got to experience to life in poverty.

Joyce Duncan teaches service learning at ETSU and after going through the simulation herself, she knew her students would benefit from this practical experience.

"Regardless of what field they go into, they are going to encounter people who are in poverty and homelessness and adverse circumstances," said Joyce Duncan.

After a few instructions, the students were given their circumstances.

Some were disabled; some had kids, while others were unemployed.

And with the blow a whistle four weeks were set into motion.

The students experienced the ups and downs of those living in poverty.

Some even felt the emotions associated with poverty.

Deanne Cole tells News 5 that this experience gave her a feeling of hopelessness.

"It made me feel very hopeless for the homeless community; it just seems that there is no way to get out of it," said Deanna Cole, ETSU student.

At the end of the simulation many of the students had lost most of everything they had.

But, luckily for them it wasn't their reality.

The 2011 U.S. Census Bureau defines poverty as a family of four, including two children which earn less than $23,000 a year.

In 2011, nearly 46.2 million Americans were living in poverty.

It is also estimated, in Tennessee that 25% of all people living below the poverty line are under age 18.

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