Hey, you know that story everyone tells about how teachers and adults are pushing the best and brightest rural young people away to the big city? A new study casts some doubt on that.
In fact, the highest achieving students may be the ones with the strongest ties to their own communities. Which makes sense if you think about it.
And those are the young people who may leave, grow up, start their careers, and then return to their towns with networks, resources and growing families.
So what is pushing kids away in the first place? Opportunity. That was what the researchers said.
Take 9 minutes and read (or listen to) the story at Vermont Public Radio: Studying the Rural Brain Drain Where Aspirations Outpace Opportunity.
After hearing the interview, I would say the problem is one of perceived opportunity, for two reasons. One, at the same time that we hear young people saying there are no jobs, we hear local employers saying there are no people to hire. Two, it implies that opportunity is an external thing that someone else has to provide.
On that first point, most communities just don’t connect young people to the existing opportunities at local employers. Otorohanga, New Zealand, is doing an outstanding job of connecting youth to jobs by a number of projects, starting by putting employers first. Watch the mayor of Otaranhanga Dale Williams explain it all in this video:
On the second point, it’s time to remember that opportunity can be something you provide for yourself. How? Entrepreneurship. Self-employment. If you know how to make your own business prosper, you don’t have to wait for someone else’s opportunity.
A number of high profile articles lately have focused on how outside forces determine your personal prosperity. It’s like people forget you can have your own successful business even in a small town.
Let’s change the conversation about rural opportunity. Let’s start talking about rural opportunity as something we can also create for ourselves.
Keep making your small town better,
PS – One more town that has people working together:
Hey there, I am from Luverne AL, “The Friendliest City in the South.” A very small town in South Alabama, Myself along with six other small business owners have formed a committee “Downtown Merchant Association” our goal is to revitalize the historic downtown area, thus far we have had an “Easter Egg*citing Event” which was a great success, in June we had a “Founder’s Day” honoring our town’s “125th ” birthday, it was fun and many people came. Currently we are working on a “Fifth Street Market Festival set for October 18.
We feel if we have events and programs to bring locals and visitors to our downtown area, all will be for the benefit of all. Yes there have been some challenges but we forged a head and plan to continue forward,