Rural Connections Concept Discussed at PCDI Meeting

Julie Worley from Rural Connections

Julie Worley from Rural Connections

Several hundred seniors graduate from southeast Colorado high schools each year. If they aren’t attending college in Lamar or La Junta, what does the local job market hold for these graduates?  How prepared are they to enter into the business world available to them?

Julie Worley of “Rural Connections” in La Junta broached those questions with PCDI board members during their monthly meeting, October 27th.  Working with funds from the Daniels Group, Worley explained how the program can engage area youth to either remain in, or return to rural America.  “Historically, youth has been migrating away from rural areas since the 1940s and the country has witnessed small, rural towns begin to die off,” she stated.  Worley explained how the program works with students between the 5th and 12th grades to begin thinking about local job development on their own.  She cited a program developed in Phillips County that joined teachers, community involvement and students to develop ideas that can lead to local business development.

One aspect of the program has been tentatively set for November 17th at Lamar Community College if there is sufficient buy-in from local schools.  “This would be a youth engagement day for juniors and seniors who would enter into a form of round table, business discussions with area entrepreneurs,” she explained.  Worley said each round would last about four minutes before the student went to the next table for another occupation related topic.  “We cover health, education, agriculture, media, digital information, utilities, energy…and they’ll be matched with someone who can talk to them about various aspects of business development.”

The other half of the general program focuses on 100 questions put to students between the 9th and 12th grades, “It covers their personal likes and dislikes about their community.  What do they feel are their career options, have they ever sat down with an adult to discuss their career, how to pursue their ideas?”  She explained to the board that the results were surprising from the Phillips County community.  Fifty-three percent of the students surveyed said they’d like to return to their home town to live.  That information changed the whole direction of the program.”  She added that percentage really drops when the students were asked if adults in their community talk to them.  She asked the board, “How many of you have ever been in a graduation line and said to the students, ‘We want you to come back to your community’?  When you start to talk to kids in your community, engage them in discussions about events that will affect them, they begin to feel a buy-in to their town.”

Worley urged the board to contact area schools to set up the table talk on November 17th.  “There’s no charge to the schools, only the cost of transportation to the college,” she explained.  John Marrin, LCC President and board member, said the program is very worthwhile and the college could accommodate the 10-12 students from each school that participates. She said the 100 question survey costs $500 per school, but added it’s worth it for the information you’ll receive and that can be used for future grants to fund these types of projects.  She added that the results will take time, but starting sooner will develop beneficial results in the long run.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: AgricultureBusinessChamber/Local BusinesscommunityCountyEconomyEducationEmploymentFeaturedLamarProwers CountySchoolYouth


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