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Young People's Involvement Can Brighten Rural America's Future

A plan to improve the quality of life in rural America includes involving young people, and finding ways to encourage them to stay in their hometowns. (ed.gov)
A plan to improve the quality of life in rural America includes involving young people, and finding ways to encourage them to stay in their hometowns. (ed.gov)
October 5, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A nationwide movement aimed at improving the quality of life in rural America, including Illinois, says it's now 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 chairman Dee Davis says some families and communities are disenfranchised by isolation and poverty.

He notes 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 stresses. “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 says the high rate of child poverty has rural America facing, in his words, "a lost generation of kids and families."

He maintains addressing that problem is key to improving opportunities for young people and prompting them to stay in their rural hometowns.

Davis says 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 points out. “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."

Davis says 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 - IL