For many years, community leaders in rural North Dakota have been asking, "What do we have to do to get young people to stay?" and "How do we get more young people to get involved in the community?"
Through Champions of Change, we hope to dig in and find the real answers to these questions. Rural communities in North Dakota experience ongoing outmigration of its young people after high school. We believe there is an opportunity to give youth a voice before they make plans after high school, creating a larger sense of community and the space for young people to champion the change they want to see in their communities.
By empowering youth to become Champions of Change in their communities, it has the potential to increase local college and university enrollment from local high school graduates or increasing the number of young people returning to their hometown after completing college elsewhere. Additionally, by retaining youth who are involved in the community, energized and eager to begin their adult lives, it creates an opportunity for entrepreneurship and rural job growth, changes in civic leadership, and increased involvement in local government.
Champions of Change will serve as a pilot study to engage juniors and seniors attending Minot Public Schools in focus groups with their peers to learn more about what community means and how we can build community culture, through the eyes of the youth.
We anticipate through this pilot, we will:
1. Gain important answers to the questions those community leaders so often ask;
2. Provide a new pattern for communities to work together and communicate, across age barriers;
3. Through community conversations, and cross-generational mentorship, we will have a clearer understanding of what creates a sense of place and community for young people;
4. Through the success of the pilot study, it will allow us to reach across community borders to share information, curriculum and opportunity to each rural community in North Dakota to create their own Champions of Change.
Supporting the voice of young people and gaining a deeper understanding of that voice will change community decision-making and expand inclusion. This process has the potential to transform communities into places where youth feel they belong.
Mural Video Credit: Scott Gordon, Artist
From left to right: Scott Gordon, Becca Tschetter, Adriana Bakk, Officer Andrew Melhoff, Izzabella Starkey, Lyndsay Ulrickson, Chloe Watterud
From left to right: (back) Jill McDonald, Megan Laudenschlager, Louis (Mac) McLeod, Mike Zimmer, Sean Coffman, (front) Becca Tschetter, Sydney Berg, Adriana Bakk