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What is an ethical response to poverty?

Setting the foundations for considerate community engagement.



St. Catherine’s requires all 9th grade students to take the course entitled “What is an ethical response to poverty?” This class is an X-term class, which is a student enrichment program coordinated with St. Christopher’s. The aim is to provide experiential learning opportunities throughout the year.

This course meets through out the school year and includes two half-day sessions and one week long experience. In these sessions leading up to the capstone event, students explore the historical and social aspects of Richmond, Virginia that created racial and social economic disparities within the city.

 Highlights of the course include:

  • a half-day panel on poverty in Richmond featuring community leaders and scholars
  • the opportunity for students to dive into the issues through several experiential activities
  • a capstone event during the X-term week where students work with outstanding local organizations such as the Sacred Heart Center, Housing Families First, and Shalom Farms.
  • The students are then asked to reflect on their work and make connections from the theoretical work leading up to the community engagement.

Finally, St. Catherine’s opens our gym to a homeless shelter for Holy week each year. Caritas (Congregations around Richmond to assure shelter) is an organization that provides emergency shelter to men, women and families. Three shelters rotate amongst the various congregations in the city of Richmond. The men’s shelter, the women’s shelter and the families shelter each are welcomed by a congregation in the city of Richmond for one week at a time. St. Catherine’s is the only school to welcome the shelter for a week. Upper School students do everything from serve meals, help to babysit children in the shelter, and take dirty clothing home to wash and clean each night to provide clean clothing. They are also able to engage and speak face-to-face with those moving through this homeless period of their lives.


A reflective piece is also incorporated. Students brainstorm on responses to poverty based on their experience in the field. They interview each other on what they found most pressing on the issue of poverty and which of the various organizations they believe are most effective in their response. These interviews are recorded and shared amongst the 9th grade.


In the 2017-2018 school year, each student in the 10th grade will meet with the director of service learning to reflect on the 9th grade program. Each student is asked to reflect on the work and which themes from the X-term program they most resonated with. From this point, students create a draft with the director of service learning of their planned service work for the next few years and what issues they are most passionate about.   This becomes a reflection and working plan for their service over the course of their High School career.


This course through the X-term session and Caritas Program seeks to equip the 9th grade students with information, investigative skills and awareness, and seeks to provoke deep questions from the students. Through this 9th grade year, we hope to create a more considerate student when embarking on their continued community engagement.

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Detailed Curriculum


The below gives an overview of the class at St. Catherine's, including the dates from the 2016-17 school year. This is intended to be a complete map for schools interested in creating a similar program, though schools will clearly need to customize the program to fit their geographical location, community, and needs.


Tuesday, Oct 11th – 10:00 – 11:00 am

Introduction to the class and overview Introduction Prezi LINK

Students spend some time in small groups with the following questions:

·      How do you define poverty?

·      How much money can you have and still be poor?

·      What possessions can you have and still be poor?

·      Does the definition of poverty vary from one country to another, or from one place to another?


Thursday, November 10th   2:30 pm

Thirty Days on Minimum Wage – a Morgan Spurlock film

Link to introduce the video (this is not the full video )

Class discussion follows. The discussion examines the issues on healthcare and livable wage for the working poor. (See questions)

Thursday, January 5th – 2:30 pm

Census activity – small group work

In this activity students are to imagine the realities of a typical family in an assigned neighborhood of Richmond. Students are arranged in groups and given a census tract. Students are to imagine a family that lives within that tract.

Handouts include (see in attached folder)

  • Life Happens: Creating a Richmond Family – handout
  •  Life Happens Budget – handout
  • Family Profiles for X-term – handout

Wednesday, January 25th – 11:50 am to 3:30 pm

Presentation on community engagement

Featured Presentation: John V. Moeser and Brian Koziol

(See supporting documents for more information and presentation)

Thursday, February 2nd   2:30 pm – In the KFA 

Film “Poor Kids” with discussion to follow

Thursday, February 16th   11:50 am – 3:30 pm

Monopoly “the game is fixed” - See rules in additional information 

This game offers students the ability to see the power of wealth, race, privilege and economic opportunity.

Friday – February 24th   all day –

 “Living on the edge” simulation – afternoon.

This is an all class simulation activity: Link to video

Monday, February 27th through March 3rd

Work placements for Monday through Thursday

St. James preschool

Shalom Farms

Housing Families First

Virginia Supportive Housing

Sacred Heart Center

Colonial Heights Food Pantry

Boaz and Ruth

Friday, March 3rdHalf Day

Film:  “Place at the Table” 


Thursday, March 16th   2:30 pm

Student reflections on the week and their thoughts on X-term. Students share their ideas of what the real response to poverty should become and who in the community is really living this calling.





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