By Christina Grube | The Technician
On March 26, TEDxNCState will partner with the Interfaith Prison Ministry for Women (IPMW) to mount an interactive simulation for students to experience life as a formerly incarcerated person. As an interactive simulation, the event will use the TEDxAdventure model for the first time at NC State.
NC State Park Scholar students Kennedy Fipps ’24, a fourth-year studying social work, and Bill Lamm ’24, a third-year studying industrial engineering, have coordinated with IPMW to bring the simulation to NC State for the first time. Fipps said students will take on the role of a formerly incarcerated person then interact with different tables which represent the community they are re-entering.
“They might go to the DMV, they might go to the soup kitchen, they might have to meet with their parole officer, they might go to a church,” Fipps said. “They might go to the bank to pay rent, then they realize, ‘Oh I just paid my rent, and I don’t have enough money to pay child support,’ then this puts them back into jail.”
Fipps describes the experience as emotional and eye-opening for those with little understanding of the incarceration and reentry process.
“The emphasis on this is that we really just want to give a fresh and unique perspective for students and allow them to have an experience that will really open their eyes to what the reality of the world is today,” Fipps said. “That’s our goal… creating care and empathy and compassion for people who are different than us and have different experiences than we do.”
After the simulation, students will be served lunch and a panel of individuals with experience with incarceration or addiction will convene for a question and answer session on their experiences re-entering society. Fipps describes her personal passion for fostering empathy for formerly incarcerated individuals and her excitement for the event.
“My dad was incarcerated for seven years, so I saw that second hand,” Fipps said. “I saw what it was like on him, I’ve seen the transition from him getting out and going back into the community and how hard it’s been on him and his mental health.”
Outside of the simulation, IPMW works heavily with women re-entering society by offering transitional housing and teaching life skills like budgeting meals, writing a resume, job interviewing and cooking lessons, to name a few.
“The numbers are so high for people who come out of prison and don’t have any support,” Fipps said. “They don’t have any money, so the only place they can go is back into prison because that’s where they’re safe. This organization is essentially trying to break that cycle. It’s a really hard job and it’s a lot of work but they do a really great job at it.”
Lamm, also a member of TEDxNCState, said the TEDxAdventure model for the event makes things more personal for participants.
“We wanted to partner with a local non-profit to revive an interactive field-trip style day of hands-on learning and programming for students and community members,” Lamm said. “It’s a really exciting event to come to form a community and exchange ideas, so we’re really excited about that. That’s the main way we follow our mission and elevate local voices.”
Fipps said she hopes the event will give students a newfound empathy for formerly incarcerated individuals to use for the rest of their lives.
“Second chances are key to life,” Fipps said. “Everybody wants one, everybody deserves one, so really we’re trying to put that out there too… That’s the heart behind it.”
The event takes place Saturday, March 26 in Talley Student Union’s Cape Hatteras Ballroom. Admission costs $20 per student and is limited to 40 NC State participants.