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Poverty Simulation Workshop Held

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Arkansas Tech University – Ozark Campus in partnership with the Arkansas Department of Higher Education held  a Poverty Simulation Workshop on Friday, April 8 at the Fort Smith Convention Center.

The Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS) is a unique tool that community action agencies are able to use to educate everyone, from policy makers to local community leaders, about the day to day realities of life with a shortage of money and an abundance of stress. CAPS is a copyrighted tool made available by The Arkansas Department of Higher Education in cooperation with other state agencies has focused significant resources to provide educators and community leaders with an understanding of how the world of the student from poverty is different from better resourced students and how to work with them.

Ms. Stacie Harden, Coordinator of Perkins and Sustainable Communities Initiatives,  in this region, stated, “Recognizing that it takes the broader community working in tandem to address the very complex issues of poverty and resources, we saw the need to bring the Poverty Simulation Workshop to the Greater Fort Smith Region.” Additionally, Harden added, “Evidence of the need to offer this simulation is in the number of participants who came out to get a better understanding of poverty in the service area.”

During the simulation, participants role-played the lives of low-income families, from single parents trying to care for their children to senior citizens trying to maintain their self-sufficiency on Social Security. The task of each family is to provide food, shelter and other basic necessities during the simulation while interacting with various community resources staffed by low-income volunteers.

Sebastian County Department of Human Services Director, Ms. Gwen Lovelace observed, “This workshop is beneficial to our staff to be reminded that we all are one or two paychecks away from homelessness, it could happen to anyone.”

Although it uses "play" money and other props, fictional scenarios, and time limits, CAPS is not a game. It is a simulation tool that enables participants to view poverty from different angles in an experiential setting, while empowering low-income volunteers by allowing them an opportunity to interact with leaders from their community.

Ms. Tara Johnson, Director of Career Pathways Initiatives said, “Poverty is not a choice, it’s a crisis.  The simulation should be a real eye-opener for everyone involved.  We’re very excited to have offered this opportunity to our community agencies that serve those in need.”

Pictured greeting guests (l-r): Brinda Berry, Arkansas Department of Higher Education, Monieca West, Arkansas Department of Higher Education, and Stacie Harden, Arkansas Tech University – Ozark Campus.