Mission, Programming, and Impact: RSC’s mission is to “build sustainable rural communities through a keen focus on place, teachers, and philanthropy.” The organization started in 2015 based on successful programs led by the Missouri-based Community Foundation of the Ozarks, a rural philanthropy innovator. RSC is supported by a small staff and regional hub contacts. It works to build the social capital of rural schools and their communities and to grow strong rural teacher leaders, give them a voice, and provide them with supportive networks and resources.
Its mission is realized through four signature efforts:
- To increase rural student engagement and outcomes, RSC supports Teton Science School’s Place Network, a collaborative network of rural K-12 schools that have access to curriculum, consulting, online community, and research informed best practices. These help the schools develop and follow a model that connects learning, place, and communities. This is shown to increase student engagement, academic outcomes, and community impact. The place network has grown to 15 schools located in regions around the country and has the goal of reaching 50 member schools by 2025.
- Rural Teacher Corps, which works to recruit, prepare, and place teacher leaders in rural schools. One of the biggest challenges facing rural schools is the rural teacher shortage and recruiting and retaining teachers. More than 225 future rural teachers participate in 11 Teacher Corps programs. These programs give rural teachers a supportive learning network; provide young teachers a voice in policy work and funding priorities; and develop next generation rural teacher leaders. RSC’s national I am Rural Teacher Campaign has shared the voices of more than 130 teachers across the country and elevated their perspectives and advocacy. RSC will be working with the National Rural Education Association to share rural teachers' viewpoints with policymakers at the regional, state, and national levels.
- Grants in Place, which awards rural teacher fellows with funding that supports a teacher’s project designed to engage students with their community, a professional development presentation, and an honorarium for the teacher. Since 2015, RSC and its partners have awarded more than $450,000 in modest grants to rural teachers for innovative place-based project.
- The Catalyst Fund has provided more than $200,000 in planning and challenge grants to support the establishment and development of Rural Teacher Corps projects. In addition, RSC promotes philanthropy for rural schools by encouraging community foundations, school foundations, and other local funders to develop assets for their public schools, and by illustrating the importance of planned giving for rural education.
RSC believes that a sustainable rural future depends on strong rural public schools. We recognize that strong schools rely on outstanding teacher-leaders, and our work focuses on building the essential relationships between teachers and their rural communities, and the places where their students live and learn.
Ultimately, the future well being of rural places will depend on healthy land, clean water, and environmentally sound practices. Policies and actions that specifically address climate change will benefit rural communities and their schools. It is a national imperative that rural schools become catalysts for these innovations.