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Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) Dickson held a poverty simulation workshop for all employees on Monday, March 7, 2022. Faculty, staff and administration from the Dickson main and advanced manufacturing campuses, the Clarksville campus, and the Franklin satellite campus converged to participate in the exercise.
With the help of many community volunteers, recently retired Dickson County UT-Extension Executive Director Janet Cluck conducted the training aimed at raising awareness of the struggles and barriers to success that many students face in daily life.
The simulation involved grouping employees into pre-determined family roles and situations that represent an average family living in poverty. The mock families were then given details about their financial circumstances and challenged to pay their given housing and utility bills, manage childcare, and obtain provisions like transportation and groceries for a month. Participants had to prioritize the resources they needed to accomplish the task and attempt to secure the help they needed from represented community resources in the allotted time.
“The simulation provided our faculty and staff an increased awareness of what it is like to live in poverty,” said Laura Travis, Executive Vice President for Academics and Compliance at TCAT Dickson. “The experience will help us to assist others more effectively.”
Groups represented different socio-economic levels with true-to-life necessities and limitations. Additionally, participants had to navigate one unexpected obstacle revealed during the training. For example, one team member representing a single mother with two preschool children had the additional challenge of having her purse stolen. This part of the simulation helped participants better understand the extra strain that unforeseeable life events can cause for a family already living in poverty.
During the debrief discussion following the exercise, many TCAT employees shared just how helpful the challenge was to increase their awareness and empathy for individuals who face similar circumstances daily. Participants also learned about community resources available to help students who may find themselves in need.