Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Program encourages rural millennials to return after college

Madeline Moore at a rural farmers' market
booth in 2012. (Photo by Damian Mulinix)
Many rural millennials are told that success means leaving their hometowns for college and staying out. But three young women in Washington state have launched a program aimed at encouraging millennials to come back home after college, and create a national network of rural adults who want to strengthen their communities.

Rethinking Rural kicked off in March 2018: "We invited 50 millennials who were active in rural communities across nine states for two days of conversation in Port Townsend. We focused on why our communities matter and how we can work together to make them better," Madeline Moore writes for The Daily Yonder. "By the end, many tears were shed. These were people like me, who wanted to fight hard for their town but, more often than not, felt as if there were banging their head against a brick wall. But maybe if we started working together as like-minded young’uns, we could get more done and affect more than just our individual communities."

From that meeting, the program now has a three-year plan that includes symposia in other rural towns. In 2020, the meeting will be in Nauvoo, Alabama; in 2021 it will take place somewhere in Native American lands in the Pacific Northwest; the 2022 location has not been decided. Rethinking Rural has partnered with the Rural Assembly, a national nonprofit, to broaden its reach and is launching a crowdfunding campaign in hopes of raising $40,000.

Moore writes that the program is more important than ever to her now, as a mother. She hopes her young daughter will be able to succeed in life and go to college. "But I also hope that one day, she decides to move back and invest in the place that raised her," Moore writes. "Rethinking Rural is about making sure there is something for this generation and the next, and the next, to move back to. And that rural America is a thriving, culturally diverse, healthy place for people to set roots."

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