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Reviving Rural America Means Giving Young People a Voice

Improving quality of life in Indiana's rural communities means involving young people and giving them reasons to stay and grow businesses there. (visitindiana.com)
Improving quality of life in Indiana's rural communities means involving young people and giving them reasons to stay and grow businesses there. (visitindiana.com)
October 4, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS – A nationwide movement aimed at improving the quality of life in rural America, including Indiana, said it's focused on involving youth. The National Rural Assembly, a coalition of more than 500 organizations, calls its new effort "Kids, Climate, Connection."

In a nation with 50 million rural residents, Rural Assembly chair Dee Davis said some families and communities are disenfranchised by isolation and poverty. He noted in many small towns, adults often say, 'I think I'll be OK, but what about the kids?'

"We've got to create a different landscape," he said. "We have to create more opportunities for rural kids, and we've got to put them in a position where they can create their own opportunities."

Davis said the high rate of child poverty has rural America facing, in his words, "a lost generation of kids and families." He believes addressing that problem is key to improving opportunities for young people and prompting them to stay in their rural hometowns.

Davis said the big challenge is creating innovative business opportunities that will make a difference.

"More and more, what we're seeing is, jobs are portable," he explained. "People are going to live where they want to live. Your employment's going to be in the laptop you carry. It's important that we begin to reimagine rural communities, so that young people have a real opportunity to make a difference there."

Thus the Assembly's link between kids, climate, and connection. Davis said rural America offers a wealth of climate solutions, including wind and solar energy, while broadband-starved rural communities need better "connection" to the global economy.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN