We often hear older generations tell youth: “You have to leave Venango County after you graduate,” or “You will never find a job or be successful here.” We certainly encourage young people to experience other places and get a new perspective–whether they go to college, travel, join the military, or move to a new town for a job–but our goal is to help them realize they are welcome home if they choose to move back, and there are opportunities here for them.
While many young people listen to these negative comments about the region and believe what they are told, we now have a group of students who have decided they want to help promote the region positively instead.
Out of our now 70 Be Here Ambassadors, 25 of them are “Youth Ambassadors.” We’ve had the opportunity to hold Ambassador trainings with students in the Gifted Program at Rocky Grove High School, the Youth Philanthropy Program through Oil City High School, and the eAcademy through the Venango County Economic Development Authority, and have spoken to students at Cranberry and Franklin High Schools as well.
At the beginning of the presentations when introductions are made, most of the students say they plan to leave the area, but towards the end of our conversation, many light up with excitement as they talk about what they love about our area and what they think the future could look like here.
While we know some of these students will move away and find success elsewhere, there are many who will choose to stay here, whether it’s right after high school or years down the road.
How can we, as a community, help these young people feel welcomed, excited, and most importantly proud to call Venango County home?
Would you like us to come speak to your students, staff, or community organization about the Be Here Initiative? Contact Ashley.