LAS VEGAS (KLAS)– UNLV Health schools teamed up Saturday for a poverty simulation. The goal is to build empathy and expose students to the impacts of poverty in the valley.

Nearly 80 students played different roles as they encountered struggles most low-income, families
face daily, including applying for jobs and housing assistance, buying groceries, taking their kids
to school, and managing transportation needs.

“Poverty is not an issue of individual failure or individual responsibility, but it’s a systemic and structural issue,” Minnie Wood, Director of Clinical and Community Partnerships, said. “By having this personal experience, they can understand how all of our structures interact together to create tremendous barriers and obstacles for people trying to get out of poverty.”

The interactive teaching tool involved medical, dental, and nursing students and highlighted how low-income families survive.

“At first, it seemed very superficial and easy, but now that I’m actually in this situation and just see how the families get to figure out how to go to places and how to pay for mortgage kind of hit me,” Yulin Lee, a UNLV dental student, said. “I think those are things. I was very oblivious to honestly.”

During the simulation, random cues will alter their roles, and the students must adapt in real-time accordingly.

“As a nurse in the future, it’s our job to be compassionate and be empathic towards people,” said Sylah Mamacaly, a UNLV nursing student, said.” you never really know who you’re going to be taken care of, whether they’re homeless, elderly, being abused or if they have no insurance so this is really eye-opening.”

Students acted out scenarios in 15-minute increments to accomplish their tasks quickly.