Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, September 23, 2016

Understanding poverty in our city

Leadership Chattanooga

Early in September, our Leadership Chattanooga class of 2017 gathered for its first full-day session. Our work started before the first official meeting of the day, when we were challenged to arrive by bus, so that we would gain first-hand experience of the many transportation challenges facing those who rely on public transportation. Our topic for the day? Poverty.

Our leader gave the 40 members of our class a bus schedule and told us to take the No. 4 bus to MLK Boulevard and Peeples.

“Most of the class had ridden public transportation before, but most were not familiar with navigating the bus system,” said Diane Parks, Director of Leadership Chattanooga, a program of the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce.

Several class members arrived late because they were unable to catch the correct bus or ask for an unscheduled stop. Patrick Long, VP of strategy and engagement for United Way of Greater Chattanooga, arrived late and flustered.

“This assignment opened my eyes to some of the many barriers people in poverty face every day,” Long said.

After the bus ride, the class discussed a Brookings Institute article entitled, “Opportunity, Responsibility, Security:  A Consensus Plan for Reducing Poverty and Restoring the American Dream.”  Two speakers shared very different experiences with poverty – one with generational poverty and one with situational poverty.  Afterward, we walked to the Community Kitchen to learn about their services for people without permanent housing.

After lunch, lively discussion continued with a presentation on diversity and inclusion by Ron Harris, Director of Workplace Diversity for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.  Finally, Jared Bigham, Chattnooga 2.0 Coordinator, described how the Chatt 2.0 education initiative is working to end poverty by improving education and preparing every student for the workforce.

Our class has been divided into small groups that will work all year to complete a project to support the goals of Chattanooga 2.0.

Watch for my next report the week after our full-day session in October. Our agenda remains a surprise until the week before.

I want to extend a special thanks to Emily O’Donnell, vice president of external relations for the Public Education Foundation, for her help in preparing this month’s article.