The more we work in rural places across the country, the more we experience a resounding theme: many people love living, working, and teaching in a rural setting. In an age when "rural" is often used as a derisive term, it is essential that we promote "The Rural Advantage" - the unique and incredibly positive aspects of calling a rural place home. Our hub partners in Northern California know the rural advantage well. At the beginning of the month, we had the excellent opportunity to join the team at North State Together for the Collective Impact Convening in Austin, Texas, to learn about how their work is changing systems and attitudes, and giving northern Californians a sense of pride in their rural hometowns.
North State Together is a regional collective partnership funded by a $2.5 million grant awarded by the McConnell Foundation. The grant funds a "cradle to career" partnership where leaders from education, business, philanthropic, non-profit, civic, and faith communities join together to improve education success for every child through a data-driven, collective impact approach. Ultimately, the goal is to increase educational options at all levels with ultimate impacts on overall economic and community health.
The grant builds on the work of two exemplary organizations, Reach Higher Shasta and Expect More Tehama. Trinity, Siskiyou and Modoc counties have also established their own local Cradle to Career collective impact initiatives.
While in Texas, all of us realized that our deep connection to rural places was a main motivating factor for doing the work we are doing, in California and beyond. Below, several of our partners shared what "the rural advantage" means to them. Please take a moment to read their perspectives and reflect upon your own meaning of "the rural advantage!"
"The rural advantage for me is experiencing, embracing, and knowing the natural environment- as well as your neighbors. We learn to drive on dirt roads before we learn algebra. We learn about the stars because we can see them. We know our teachers as neighbors, and they know us. We know what the seasons feel, smell, and taste like. The mountains and rivers and lakes are our playground."
- Sara Phillips, research analyst at Shasta College and North State Together
“The rural advantage is access to so many personal connections that help you grow emotionally, mentally, culturally, and professionally.”
- Patricia Esparza, Assistant Director, TRIO @shastacollege, Expect More Tehama leadership team
"The rural advantage is that we have many meaningful partnerships in our work, not just half-hearted buy in."
- Michelle Hickok, design and communications, leadership team, Expect More Tehama
"For me, the rural advantage is not worrying about trying to get my kids into the 'best' school - there's only one - and all of the best teachers work there!"
- Sharon Strazzo, Operations Manager at North State Together, and Executive Assistant to the Vice President of Student Services at Shasta College
“For me, the rural advantage is knowing your professional partners in meaningful ways. Those relationships increase my level of commitment to my work in rural education.”
- Dr. Ann Schulte, Graduate Coordinator, School of Education, Faculty Fellow for Rural Partnerships, Office of Civic Engagement at California State University, Chico. Ann is also an RSC advocate and co-contact for our Northern California Hub site
"Decision makers are not separate or untouchable because everyone is connected which helps us get things done!"
- Kathy Garcia, Expect More Tehama leadership team
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This feature is supported by RSC’s Northern California Regional Hub partners at North State Together