Depending on the generation, each person has a different perspective of our area. For those who grew up during the “booming” times when large oil corporations were employing thousands of people, it can be easy to look at our region now and think negatively. The younger generations, though, weren’t born yet or old enough to remember these times—everything they think about the area is shaped by what they experience now or hear from older generations, maybe their relatives or co-workers.
As a 25-year-old who grew up in the area and chose to call it home after college, it can be frustrating to work extremely hard to make a difference here, to then be met by comments such as: “Our area is failing,” or “It’s just not the same as it was back in the day.”
It’s difficult to understand what others are seeing. Sure, it can be sad to think about how things are compared to the past, and it’s important to recognize our heritage and the events and people who led us to where we are, but we can’t dwell on the past. We need to move forward and focus on what we can do NOW to help this area thrive.
The Venango Chamber launched a leadership program this year and I got to see the backend of everything coming together for it. It wasn’t until this month, though, that I had the opportunity to attend a session. The group meets once a month for a full-day class related to a specific topic, such as community caregiving, honorable leadership, and clean communications. The class of 2019 is made up of 13 local professionals all under the age of 40.
While we were sitting at lunch at this month’s session, two seasoned professionals who both run large, successful local businesses joined as guests, and the discussion was led to how the program has been going. Participants talked about how it has helped them build relationships with other young professionals, taught them a lot about the area, and made them feel more inspired and prepared to make an impact here.
The conversation then led to what our area used to be like and how it is now, and one of the guests mentioned how she gets sad thinking about what all has left our area, but she loves seeing younger professionals choosing to make a difference and not letting what it used to be like affect what they do or how they think.
I also had the opportunity to spend the day at Franklin Area High School at the beginning of December, talking to all 10th graders about opportunities in the area for entrepreneurship. I asked the question “Who plans to move away after school?” and saw far less hands raised than expected.
Young people are told by parents, teachers, or other elders that there aren’t opportunities here, and that they will probably have to move away to find success. When talking with these students, though, most of them recognize the positive aspects about our area. When reading over a worksheet I had them complete asking questions such as: “What is your passion?” and “Could you start a business related to this in Venango County?,” many described dreams of starting a business or working for a company right here.
Many community members who grew up in the area when it was “booming” now see it as failing, whether they lost a job or had a family member get laid off, saw successful businesses leave or close, or watched as our population slowly declined. On the other hand, younger generations see endless opportunities for new businesses and successes. Each person’s experiences shape their perspective of the region.
While it can be difficult, we encourage everyone to see the hope for our area, just like those younger generations who know no different. Recognize the local businesses that still exist, nonprofits helping thousands of people, events that bring fun and entertainment to our towns, and community members who have found success right here.
The more you notice the positive, the more you will stop seeing the negative. It’s all about perspective.
Pictured above: 2019 Class of Leadership Venango