UT Student Leaders Head to Washington D.C to Participate in a Social Simulation

By Brianna Bush

Student leaders from The University of Tampa went to Washington D.C to participate in a social stimulation as part of the Office of Student Leadership and Engagement’s (OSLE) Spartan Social Change Experiment Program.  

“The program seeks to help students become Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) advocates by serving the local community,” said Paulo Cezar Lopes Sa, the student coordinator for OSLE’s Social Change Experiment. “It develops a sense of belonging, also humbling participants as they realize their position of privilege.” 

During the four-day trip in Washington D.C., which is part of the year-long program, students participated in a simulation and visited historical landmarks to receive hands-on experience and gain knowledge about the community they are serving. The group of student leaders attended the trip in partnership with Kennesaw State University’s Leadership Exchange Program.

“We participated in a simulation to understand the differences of getting food on a low-budget and feeding a family of four,” said Algernon Shaw Jr., a student leader in the Spartan Social Change Experiment Program. 

The simulation consisted of four-person groups to represent members of underserved households. Each group was given $11 for transportation and food. The purpose of the experiment was to evoke a real-world situation where a family of four takes a trip to the grocery store to buy a meal. 

“The whole simulation was experiencing the transportation aspect and the distance with where the grocery stores were located,” said Shaw. 

His group took the train and walked to the closest grocery store. The group had just enough money to buy the ingredients for fish tacos. 

Shaw said this stimulation opened his eyes to the food deserts that exist across the nation, where access to affordable and healthy foods is limited.

The group also volunteered at Bread for the City, a nonprofit that provides essential items to low-income residents in Washington D.C.. They helped serve prepackaged food to low-income households. 

Along with serving the community, they visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Museum of the American Indian. 

Through these experiences, students had the opportunity to learn about the history and culture of African Americans and Indigenous communities. 

Shaw, who is also the vice president of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, said the experience made him become more in touch with his fraternity. By having the opportunity to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture he was able to learn about his organization’s roots because they had a section dedicated to Black Greek-Letter organizations. 

“There are these major people making these major movements in American history,” said Shaw. I am a part of the same fraternity that has spawned these great men that have made world-impacting things.”  

Shaw said that both museums give you exposure to significant moments in history and describes them as a “pandora box of things” you wouldn’t otherwise learn about in school. 

Another integral part of the trip was their debriefs where students took the time to discuss the activities. 

“You don’t actually realize what you’re doing until you take a step back and reflect,” said Shaw. 

The reflections helped them recognize how they can become global leaders.

Shaw recommends that students of every major apply to the program because students can learn more about the community by becoming active leaders. 

Students who are interested in this experience can apply at the beginning of the fall semester. 

“The threshold of knowledge and change is at the same point of uncomfortability,” said Shaw. “If you don’t feel uncomfortable then it’s an opportunity to grow and learn.”

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