The cover story of the spring 2014 issue of Vision, Chaminade Julienne’s alumni magazine, highlights a unique learning experience had by juniors through their religion classes.
On April 1, CJ hosted a Cost of Poverty Experience (C.O.P.E.) simulation in the Student Conditioning Center. The two hour role-playing activity allowed students to experience the pressures felt by real-life families living in poverty in Montgomery County.
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Junior Aaron Talib and a friend played the role of a married couple. Aaron’s character was suffering from depression while his spouse had a criminal record for being previously arrested. To make matters worse, Aaron was fired from his job after the first day of work.
“It was tough,” Talib said. “We didn’t have a lot of money, only about $1,000 per month, and now I realize that isn’t very much money to live on.”
In the days immediately following the simulation, junior religion teachers Dr. Mick Mominee and Karen Emmerich set aside class time to give the students an opportunity to process the experience together.
“The first thing I thought about was my parents and how stressful it can be to have to budget every single month,” Talib said.
To make the lesson stick, teachers also assigned a budgeting activity that asked students to work with an adult to calculate the monthly cost of living for a traditional family of four and an individual. Students then compared these figures against the U.S. and international poverty lines.
Mominee said the activity helped juniors empathize with those living in poverty while showing them just how complicated the issue can be.
“I think overall, these students have a deeper understanding of the problem and why (poverty) is not something we can simply fix by saying, ‘Work harder, get a job, stay positive,’” he said.
Talib said he learned a lot because the experience challenged his beliefs. He encourages others to be open if given the opportunity to participate in a C.O.P.E. simulation.
“Keep an open mind because you want the experience to be something that impacts you.”
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