The cast and crew of The Boarder wish to personally thank you for your support while making their film, shot right here in Ravenna. On June 10th, they will be hosting a "Thank you, Boarder supporters breakfast" at the City Auditorium from 7:30 am to 9:30 am. Free tickets are available at City Hall. Don't miss it!
Time and time again over the past several months, I have been impressed by the quality of youth we have here in Ravenna. Whether they’re working as a cashier or just out and about, these kids are exceptional. What makes them so special? Among other things, they’ll have conversations with us old folks. Think back to when you were a teenager and an adult started a conversation with you. Were you comfortable? Could you have carried on the conversation with intelligent comments or friendly responses? It’s very common for kids to not be comfortable visiting with adults in their community. Not in Ravenna. They’ll talk to you; they’ll share their thoughts and ideas, and do so genuinely.
Unfortunately, we are not consistently capitalizing on these young people. As a society, we have told rural youth that they must leave home never to return in order to find OPPORTUNITY. We must better communicate with youth from a young age that there are opportunities to live, work, and play in their hometown after receiving an education or exploring the world beyond Ravenna’s city limits. No, we do not have an abundance of employment opportunities at the present. BUT according to a recent seven-year survey, nearly half of rural youth want to someday own their own businesses. We must communicate to our young people that where there are seemingly no opportunities (i.e. available jobs) there are tremendous prospects to create their own opportunities. More importantly is that they won’t be alone in creating those prospects. Parents and grandparents, City Council, Ravenna Public Schools, Ravenna Economic Development Corp, the Chamber of Commerce and others must partner to encourage and assist young people as they pursue their dreams. Perhaps it’s an internship or shadowing program to help our youth explore career fields or to simply show them how much business is actually done in Ravenna. Or, perhaps it’s a program to encourage entrepreneurship among our students. The point is that successful rural communities serve as laboratories for students to practice and enhance the knowledge they gain in the classroom. After they receive a college education, they must know that they can always “come home” and that they will be surrounded by people who care about them and genuinely want them to succeed, both for the sake of the returning young person and for the vitality of our community.
REDC has reached out to Ravenna Public Schools to identify opportunities to partner in the name of retaining (or retrieving) our young people. Local groups are constantly raising funds to provide young people with scholarships to help open doors to an education that might not otherwise exist. It’s a great standard these organizations have set. However, not conveying the message of “we want you to come back some day” is counterproductive; we’re essentially raising funds to send them away never to return.
My plea is this: Let’s change our message to encourage young people to return to Ravenna in the not too distant future. Most will move on to larger cities to pursue their education and explore the world. Many will truly love the experience and never want to return. But some will not. Some will miss their families or want for their children the same small town experience they enjoyed: friendly faces, safe neighborhoods, good schools, community pride and ownership, and so on. You can bet that when they are considering their options they will remember all of the support and encouragement they received in Ravenna, that there exists an opportunity to start or run a business with the love and support of family and friends. It is our job to spread the message and establish preconditions for success. This means an environment friendly to small and large companies alike, an environment that encourages entrepreneurship and a blue collar work ethic. That responsibility falls on each and every one of us as the current stewards of our community.