Symposium on Small Towns held at University of Minnesota, Morris on June 4th and 5th… Wonderful presentations were given at the two day event. Ben Winchester and Randy Cantrell spoke on “Rewriting the Rural Narrative” Craig Schroeder gave his speech ‘Discussing the Youth Voice’. …”Why aren’t we seeing youth involvement and what else can we do to get youth involved?”
- Instead of including youth, we usually DO things to our youth – Skateboard park created a segregation scenario. We make them clean up trash. We focus on sports but usually just the ‘stars’ and ignore all the rest.
- Or, we do FOR youth – build a teen center and no one shows up… did they ask for it? We give them college scholarships… why are we encouraging to leave for college?? Local Trade Schools are an option too. And we’re always telling youth the ‘right way to do things’. Or we grant them a scholarship to leave our rural area and head to college. How can we reward them and keep them local??
- INSTEAD, we should be doing things WITH our youth – Youth Events with agendas they request. Decision making mentors.
- We really need to ask the youth what they want and how they plan to achieve that goal? Not what we want for them.
When asked, what youth most often requested was = a place to showcase their work. Be careful not to assume the definition of work is strictly art.
We’ve realized that we need to work on attracting our 30 and 40 somethings back to their home community. How about catching them before they leave? Communities have begun giving a mailbox to each senior with their name on the side and a note inside… ‘we wish you all the best on your quest to see the world and realize your dreams. Just remember, you are always welcome to return home. Hope to see you again soon!’ or something like that. That letter is signed by all of the community leaders. And EVERYONE gets them. Not just those with honors or members of clubs/teams. We also need to get moving on our career fairs and internships.
We heard about an FFA leader that tells students it’s ok to stay. Not everyone needs to go to a 4 year college but does your area offer alternatives to provide the training needed to fill more technical emerging jobs?
Other presenters during the symposium included Jim Russell, Sandra Wolfe Wood, Sieng Lee, and Dewey Thorbeck. Jim spoke highly on “Age of Rural Migration” while Sandra and Sieng engaged us with “Design Thinking: Social Innovation Through Empathy.”
“As the global economy has shifted, so have national and international migration patterns. The last recession and associated financial crisis signal yet another transformation. What do emerging migration trends portend for rural communities? Within historical context, opportunities and concerns will be mapped.” Jim Russell
With all of the information we received while at the two day Symposium its hard to remember all of the content. Below you will find websites to the discussions held during the Symposium on Small Towns.
Below are links to background information and research for the 2014 Symposium that challenge “doom and gloom” statistics for rural America and discuss the strategies for community development that must change as our communities change.
- Brain Gain Website
- “Rural Migration: The Brain Gain of the Newcomers”
- “The Glass Half Full: A new View of Rural Minnesota”
- Strategies to Attract and Retain Newcomers
- Economic Impact of Newcomers
- Marketing Rural Communities to Attract and Retain Workers in a Changing Economy