Monday, November 1, 2010

Some Words of Wisdom From Rural Kansas to Rural Nebraska

The following story ran on Friday, October 29, 2010 in the Grand Island (Nebraska) Independent, by reporter Amy Schweitzer:

Rural Young People Encouraged To Network

Young people in rural Nebraska sometimes feel like the older generation doesn't really want to listen to them.

The town councils in many small towns bemoan the fact that young people aren't getting involved in the town. Then when some of the "under 40 crowd" join a civic group, they are told that things have to be done the way they have always been done.

"We would really like to you to use your youth and energy to do things our way," said Marci Penner of Inman, Kan., a town of about 1,100, quoting a fictional town council filled with "gray hairs."

She, Jenny Arnold and Erika Nelson, all from small Kansas towns, spoke Friday at the Connecting Young Nebraskans Summit in Grand Island. They and others are trying to start a networking group they call "Power Up" across Kansas for residents ages 21 to 39 who are "rural by choice."

Penner explained that the "by choice" designation is important because they are not talking about those who are living in their rural community because they had no other choice and hate it.

Several people Friday said they often felt the older people in their town almost looked down on them because they hadn't moved to the big city.

"It's not just networking within your community, but across the state to connect with others like you," Penner said.

The network's website also could have a "dream wall" where rural young people and those who would like to move to a small town could tell others about what they hoped to do.

"How can we help that man go back to the family farm, when financially he feels he has to stay in a metropolitan area?" Penner used as an example.

Nelson, an artist in a town of 400, also talked about the importance of opening, and keeping open, the lines of communication not just between rural and urban folks, but also between generations.

"It is important to empower the younger voices to be heard and empower the younger ears to listen," she said.

The Kansas trio also talked about the power that the younger generation has as a whole. A town may listen if the younger generation states that they would return to the small town if it had a fast Internet connection and reliable cell phone service.

"We're the generation that doesn't want to sit around and talk about it. We want to do something," Nelson said.

Connecting Young Nebraskans is a network of citizens under 40 who live in rural Nebraska that provides an opportunity for younger people to share their knowledge, insights and dreams while learning more about topics related to personal, professional and civic growth.

The University of Nebraska Rural Initiative provided support for a Connecting Young Nebraskans (CYN) group because it is important that all age groups and occupations participate in the decisions and actions that will build the future, yet too often those under 40 are not fully engaged in the process.

Members communicate via Facebook and other social networking sites. While the focus of this network is on connecting young people across rural Nebraska, there will also be communication with urban areas as needed.

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