All incoming Touro Law students were invited to participate in a Poverty Simulation during the 2023 Day of Service and Public Interest at Orientation this year. The event was organized by the Director of the Public Advocacy Center and Public Interest, Cate Carbonaro.
The immersive Poverty Simulation, offered in partnership with the New York State Courts Access to Justice Committee, provides students with critical knowledge in interacting with clients and helping them develop problem-solving skills while learning to work collaboratively. Student participants were assigned to groups, with each group representing a low-income family unit. The roles of different government and community organizations that these “families” interacted with were played by faculty and staff from the Law Center.
Poverty Simulations are interactive experiences that help participants begin to understand what life as a low-income community member might be like, with a shortage of money, an abundance of stress, and legal problems that are incomprehensible and frightening. By role-playing assigned identities and being scripted to engage in certain activities, the students had to figure out how to make ends meet by obtaining housing vouchers, finding childcare, cashing checks, paying for utilities, and going to community-based social services agencies for assistance. Students began to understand the lives and perspectives of their potential clients in a way that will influence the kind of attorneys they will strive to become. Though only receiving a glimpse into the real-life issues that low-income people face, the students who participated spoke about how moving the experience was for them.
“It is often hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, but the Poverty Simulation program forces you to see life from a different perspective and sometimes even make choices that you didn’t think you would make,” stated Carbonaro. “I’m so proud that this can be one of the first public interest experiences for our students. The program has a profound and resonating impact on all who participate and, I believe, makes us better lawyers and human beings.”