There are a multitude of reasons WHY a community should have teenagers participating on the boards and councils. ~ But I will limit my self to just a few!
1) According to a University of Nebraska national survey of rural youths, 50% (that’s right folks! FIFTY PERCENT) WANT to return to their communities in the future.
That’s a fabulous number! Now what are YOU going to do with that information?
What is your community to have to offer these returning ‘youngsters’ down the road?
Jobs? Things to do? Places to hang out? Wi-Fi hot spots? Entertainment for new families? Buildings to start businesses in?
I would bet if you asked these youngsters what they would want to have, you would be surprised by their answers. If you let them, they will help you carve a new future for your community.
I met two extraordinary young men at the RuralX conference in Aberdeen a couple weeks ago. They were the youngest attendees at 16 & 17 years old. Both want to “come home” to Miller SD when they are done with school. Both want to open businesses. Both want to be able to express their ideas now to council and desire to be a part later. They want to listen us and for us to listen to them. Luckily, they live in a rural community that embraces young and old alike!
2) A vested interest in the community makes a difference. Most of the time it seems that my father’s generation is the last to truly be a vested part of a community at a young age. Really think about that. For hundreds of years, people were expected to shoulder adult responsibilities and participate in community events at a young age.
When and Why did we stop expecting our children to be a part??
When these youth feel valued and a part of the community, they are more likely to participate and volunteer. They will readily step up and lead the charge for whatever task is at hand.
(I could name a number of communities where the youth are put on ignore. It doesn’t bode well for those particular towns future.)
You could coordinate with the school so these youth get credit for attending meetings and so on.
I believe this is doubly important in rural communities. Without a large population to draw from, we need to build from within. Let them participate, share ideas and be a part.
3) Trust ~ Pretty simple, huh?
Let me give you an example; You trust the local teenagers to be LIFEGUARDS at the pool, responsible for your children. You have faith in their judgement that they will save a drowning child.
So why would you not trust their opinions or ideas?
Sure! Some of their ideas may be far fetched to us. But I am sure some of ours were just as far fetched to our ‘elders’. But without the dreams and forward thinking and enthusiasim, rural communities will wither away.
So put a little trust in these kids and give them a seat at the big table.
Together we can make our communities better for all.
Okay- so maybe not quite “cities”…. Cope, Anton and Idalia are technically listed as “villages”
I happened to land in Cope in a quirky twist of fate… You see, many years ago, we bought a café sight unseen on a handshake at a football game in Denver. That’s another story.
Cope had a population of 97. We helped grow it to 101.
Now, if you’ve ever lived in a very small rural community, you KNOW that revenue is hard to generate and so is entertainment.
We had the bright idea of starting “Café Racing”one summer. We had a little go- cart, and so did another family in Anton (pop 20) and another in Idalia (pop 115 +/- at the time)
So, we decided that to drum up business for each café in our towns,we would race around the café in Cope one weekend, and the other towns the following weeks… and then repeat. ~you could call it ‘Redneck Revenue’~
It only lasted a few months, but it was fun and did what it was supposed to do.
~Yes~ our little homemade go carts were wildly unsafe… kids strapped in with old back braces screwed to plywood and borrowed bike helmets…. But we all made it safely and the kids still talk about that summer.
Café Racing was a lesson in cooperation and collaboration with other towns. It was the start of “could be’s” Which led to other adventures….and bright ideas
Now I am using over 25 years of gained knowledge to help others get things started in their communities and learn to connect with neighboring towns.
It is getting harder and harder for many small towns to hang on. State and federal funding is drying up, resources are disappearing and people have become complacent. By working together, small towns can revive themselves and head in a new direction. Though there are many, here are my reasons small towns should think regionally.
1-None of us are getting any younger. Things happen. Ask yourself What IF? What if you couldn’t just hop in the car and drive 50 miles to market? Wouldn’t it be nice to walk down the street and grab a birthday card or a gallon of milk, or meet your friends for coffee? Or to just go the 10 miles to the neighboring town that has what you need?
Ask yourself, If you couldn’t just drive into the city, is it a reasonable expectation to have your child or friend take an entire day off of work, come from the city to get you, take you back to the city to get that handful of items you had to have, and then drive you back home and head right back? That would be an entire day and over 200 miles of driving.
Just because you CAN drive in, doesn’t mean you need to or even want to. And we all know someone who really shouldn’t be behind the wheel to start with!
2-Shared resources. One town has the lake, one the hospital, one has a huge yearly event , one a cafe, one the lake, one a motel. How can you use your neighbors resources to enhance your own?
You could advertise your motel at the same time the next town is having AppleFritter Days.
The tiny town of Aladdin, WY (population 15!) has a 100 year old store. And that’s it. Aladdin is 20 miles from Belle Fourche SD. They have built their business around tourism to Belle Fourche and Sturgis and Devils Tower. Aladdin uses the simple principle of Buy, See & Do to capture their audience. Aladdin uses the nearby towns resource of people, hotels and more.
If a town of only 15 people can do it, so can you!
3-Events~ events draw people from all over. Take advantage of it. Even tiny events provide an abundance of trickle down economics. When they drive to your town, people will stop to fill their tanks before leaving, they will spend money in your café, gift shop, roadside stands, etc.
It doesn’t matter if you have a cartwheel contest, a parade, a farmers market or some huge event. Just do something. Once people know that your community has events, they will spread the word bringing more people the next time.
4-Small towns are inter-connected by family ties. Most everyone who lives in small towns is connected to other nearby communities by family. This means traveling back and forth. Shared knowledge and histories. Capitalize on it.
Make a traveling history exhibit featuring the townspeople, host a Cousins Day or something else crazy.
When Aunt Dorothy comes to your town for little Jr’s birthday party, dimes to dollars she will stop at the local store to grab a gift or a bottle of wine.. Just like when you go to that pot-luck the next town over, you’ll probably stop in their market and get some of that potato salad to take with you.
5-Small business succeeds. When a small town thinks outside of its borders, businesses grow and thrive. By sharing and collaborating with other nearby communities, you grow your customer base.
When you grow your base, more people hear about you. The more they hear about you, the more excited they get to find out what’s new in your community. With more people coming to town, the more the possibility of a business being able to expand or hire someone or for a new business to start. How exciting would that be?
What ideas do YOU have to think regionally?
But worth it! These were at the Saints Peter & Paul cemetery outside of Wilton, ND.
~ Today on the radio I listened to an interview between well known Italian chef Gino D’Acampo and a British talk show host… and of course the moment I got in the house I HAD to Google the live event….
In a nut shell~ The host insults the poor man by saying “If you just add ham….” who quickly replies with
“if’a my Grand-a-mutha had wheels, she’d’a be a bike-a”
Can you Hear the cadence and inflection in your head?? I can.
I laughed and laughed.
Because I am half Italian. and I understand. COMPLETELY.
~When we were younger, my brother told my mother that her cooking was “ALMOST as good s Chef-Boy-R-Dee”
My mother went on strike with some gestures and muttering with what we loosely translated to mean “If we ever wanted another hot meal, we’d damn well better fix it ourselves because we sure the heck-0 weren’t getting it from her.” (ever)
I actually have some very funny stories about being Italian… But we’ll save those for a later date! WHY??? Because I will have to run fast when my Mother finds out I put her picture in here! ~