A gathering of Miller residents ranging in age from 15 to 89 had a conversation Feb. 5 about this question: “How can we engage young people in the future of the community of Miller?”
The gathering was the last event of the Prairie Idea Exchange, a grant-funded project intended to share community-building ideas across the region.
Dakotafire Media organized the event, which was set up in a “conversation cafe” format: Groups were organized, and specific questions were used to develop solutions. Here are some of their responses.
“What makes you feel connected to your community?”
“Values. The values of the community are what make me feel connected.” —Greg Palmer, Dakota Energy
How are youth and adults connecting or not connecting in Miller?
“In 1992 when we moved to Miller, they had dances at the Legion, and everyone from 2-92 came to the dances. This does not happen anymore.” —Paulette Gates
“The adults and kids connect through kids’ extracurricular activities, such as sports, 4-H, and FFA. In a community the size of Miller, we know each other better and are more involved than a big city.” —Lane Warkenthein
“Youth and adults in the community are not connected because there are not a lot of activities for social interaction. They watch the basketball games but not much real interaction.” —Trevor Parmely
The community does not offer “a lot of opportunity for kids to have a ‘family-raising wage.’” —Lori Ruby, Mitchell
“Youth and adults don’t get to connect because the bowling alley shut down. We don’t get to socialize with the adults.” —Karst Hunter
“Youth and adults connect through church.” —Joe Zeller
What assumptions are being made about the youth’s connections in the community?
“The youth cannot wait to leave, is one assumption.”
“We assume kids know there are jobs here.” —Joseph Wieseler
“Kids want to leave but we see them coming back to raise their families. They come back, but it takes 20 years to figure it out.”
“Adults feel there is plenty to do, but the kids’ feedback says there is not enough socially yearround and no place to hang out.” —Deb Bonebright
“The assumption that you cannot make a living here because the wages are too low. Many people in this community have very good jobs, earned an education and ask whatever wage they want.” —Travis Anderberg
What can we begin now that today’s kindergartners can thank us for when they are seniors?
“A recreational director, lining up projects and events for the year.” —Lane Warkenthein
“George and Donna Melber would read with the first grade all year. The last day of the year they would take us to their farm. This makes me want to go back to elementary and start a mentoring program.” —Annie Keeter
“We need to strengthen our schools, by different class offerings and attract teachers with better salaries.” —Marshall Johnson
“Teaching the kids social skills and engage in fun activities with them.” —Casey Schaefers
“Having an intern program and a housing program, a place for them to come home to.” —Garrett Knox
“Building an indoor swimming pool so it could be used by both kids and adults.” —Karst Hunter
In summary: How can we engage young people in the future of the community of Miller?
The group’s answers were: friendly active communication for all ages, connecting the generations, activities for families, be a community of choice, security, and opportunities to grow and learn throughout our lifetime.
The group also noted that youth showed up to let the community know what they want to keep them here. The community would be stronger and better if all worked together. The group also said they felt young people would want to return to Miller if they had been part of fixing the community. The group was impressed with how articulate and mature the young people in attendance were.
The group was surprised by the amount of things they could accomplish by working together.
The group gathered ideas to keep moving forward. So look ahead for new changes coming to Miller.
I commit to …
At the end of the Dakotafire Café, participants wrote down the things they’d do to continue to work on the issues they discussed. Some chose to add their names, while others did not.