Sixty percent of students at Trigg County Public Schools qualify for free or reduced lunch, based on data in the grant that the school system receives from the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program. This means that 60 percent of students come from families that fall below the poverty line, allowing them to qualify for free and reduced lunch.

Of the 14,000 residents in Trigg County, more than 2,000 live below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census report.

The Lighthouse Family Resource Center conducted a training simulation in the Trigg County High School gymnasium Feb. 19 to help teachers and staff at Trigg County Primary and Middle schools better understand the hardships and possible stressors that affect these students and their families on a daily basis and the impact that it may have on their school life.

"This is an intense training. The teachers will have to simulate one month of going to work, paying bills and trying to survive in one hour. It is meant to put them under pressure and stress them out," said Ashley Hunter, with the resource center.

The teachers and staff from the two schools were assigned to a unique family situation and were tasked with getting to work or school, providing all necessities for their family and handling unexpected problems.

Hunter discussed the goal of the training for the teachers.

"We want the teachers to understand what a student or parent may be struggling with," she said. "This is meant to put them in a high-pressure situation so that they can feel what that stress is like for families."

Some of the families in the situation were single-parent families, grandparents raising grandchildren, homeless or jobless families. Some of the families had teens with babies on the way, some were facing eviction, and some were faced with losing their children.

"I was stressed the whole time," said Kim Mroch, middle school teacher. "I spent so much time trying to get through the lines everywhere that I needed to go, that I never actually saw my family. I can see how that makes it difficult to help with homework and get kids ready for school."

Many of the participants said they felt like they could never catch up, and making sure school work was done was not a top priority.

"What we make a priority in our lives may not be a top priority for some families because of all of the other things that they have to do. We have to understand that when we are talking to these parents and students," said Linda Wood, former school board member.

Laura Shelton, with the resource center, talked about her experience with the training and how it helped her in her position.

"We do this because we love it," she said. "This is about loving people, regardless of who they are or what their situation is. We are here to help. Now, I do that without judgment."

Teachers were made aware of resources for families in need at the Lighthouse Family Resource Center and The Way Christian Youth Center.

The center plans to host the intermediate and high school teachers and staff for the next simulation. After that, training will be offered to the rest of the staff at the board, cafeteria and volunteers at the school. The center also plans to host this simulation for members of the community who would like to participate.

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