Is there such a thing as a common “rural experience”? Rural ambassadors at this week’s YouthBuild events in Washington, D.C., find that the answer is yes.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Daily Yonder correspondent Dale Mackey and visual editor Shawn Poynter have been at the YouthBuild Rural Caucus and Conference of Young Leaders this week in Washington, D.C. Dale produced these videos with photos that Shawn shot.
On the first day of the Rural Caucus, I watched 21 young people shyly greet each other and make tentative small talk. Over the next two days, they shared stories about themselves and their communities, discussed how they could become rural leaders, and formed bonds that carried through as 93 other mostly urban students joined them as the Caucus concluded and rolled into YouthBuild’s annual Conference of Young Leaders. Rather than tell their stories for them, I wanted to let them talk about themselves in their own words. I asked three pairs of these rural ambassadors to interview each other about their lives and their experiences.
Sharell and Corey
During one session, Sharell Harmon, who lives in Elkins, West Virginia, discussed what it was like being one of the few African Americans living in her town. She looked across the table at Corey Perkins from McArthur, Ohio, who was wearing a hunting cap and heavy jacket. “Before, if I saw someone wearing a hunting cap and a hunting jacket, I would think we wouldn’t have anything in common. But once I started talking to people, I realized we had a lot in common,” Sharell said. Sharell and Corey discuss similar struggles their towns face and what it’s like meeting such a diverse group of people.
Christopher and Shakari
Christopher Shaw and Shakari Smith both lived in Los Angeles before Christopher moved to Hammond, Louisiana, four years ago, and Shakari moved to Elizabeth City, North Carolina, just five months ago. They talk about the unique perspective they share from moving from an urban to a rural environment.
Janard and Benjamin
During one session, Janard Carey of Convent, Louisiana, and Benjamin Fischer from Barre, Vermont, both talked about a moment of “waking up” and realizing they wanted to make changes in their lives after dropping out of high school. The two talk about moving forward and how they became friends.