Community Ties: Tying People to Their Michigan Community
Many people think that rural Michigan doesn’t have much to offer – especially in a world abundant in technology. Talk to some young people about their perceptions of “up north” and you’ll hear adjectives such as old fashioned, outdated, farms, boring, and nothingness. Even youth from northern Michigan use these adjectives to describe their home. Typically, youth from rural, northern Michigan even share a common goal – getting out.
Fortunately, a team of researchers at Michigan State University is working to fight this. A Michigan State University project called Community Ties aims to forge new social ties among youth, local entrepreneurs and other professionals through online social networking and community development activities. Community Ties is currently available for students and professionals in Grand Traverse, Marquette, Oscoda and Otsego Counties through the Community Ties website, communityties.us. The project was developed by the Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media and is maintained by a grant from the USDA. The project has several main goals: sparking interactions, expanding career awareness, preventing bright flight, igniting inspiration and tying the community together.
One goal of the project is to spark interactions between youth and professional role models, business peers with each other, students with each other, budding entrepreneurs with experienced business professionals. Conversations between these groups are facilitated on the Community Ties website as well as in person through forums that were held in each community in the spring of 2009.
Expand career awareness
There are many viable careers in rural communities that are invisible – jobs done behind closed doors and computer screens, that many of us are not aware exist. MSU faculty has been teaching classes at Traverse City West Senior High, Fairview High School, Gaylord High School and Ishpeming High School where students learn basic technology how-to as well as web design skills. Many of the students have learned about telecommuting and have been introduced to people in their community who telecommute to jobs across the country.
Prevent bright flight
Far too often, our best and brightest youth leave our community because they feel that opportunity awaits them elsewhere. If we strengthen Community Ties by placing local opportunities and invisible jobs in the spotlight, youth will realize “there’s no place like home.” The classes and activities held by Community Ties in their target regions has done just this. Many young people have realized that it is possible to leave home to attend college then return and have a prosperous career.
To help expand career awareness and prevent bright flight, Community Ties is sponsoring multiple interns throughout northern Michigan. Essentially, Community Ties plays match.com for careers. Students submitted why they would be a great intern and businesses submitted why they would be a great place to intern. Then Community Ties paired the matches made in heaven. Now there are students getting to paid in their dream careers that they didn’t always realize were available to them in their rural community. One student is with the forest service and another with a photographer which another still pursues their dream of being in the film industry.
Sometimes adults may feel like they are all alone in their profession or business, but the community is filled with local experts and others telecommuting. Connecting with other professional peers can help ignite inspiration and innovation to everyday problems. Through the Community Ties website, adults have been able to met and connect with others like them in the community. By sharing resources, both physical and intellectual, the entire community wins.
Tie the community together
Going beyond just sparking interactions, the more involved a person is with their community (online and offline) the more they will feel tied to their community. Developing and strengthening these connections helps expand career awareness, prevent bright fight, and ignite inspiration to make the community stronger and more tied than ever than it has ever been in the dream of Community Ties. Hopefully, the program will become state wide and be able to help more than just four counties. It’s not just the rural youth that need to be tied to the community, it’s all of Michigan. The professionals, the trade workers, the entrepreneurs, the students, the youth, the young adults, those ready to retire and those just about to begin their careers. There is a place in Michigan for everyone – now we just need to help them find it.
- The Great Job Myth (December 22, 2009)
- Lansing’s Entrepreneurial Revival (February 26, 2010)
- My Fulfilling Life in Michigan (November 30, 2009)
- Rethinking ‘Talent Retention’ (December 7, 2009)
- A Convergence of Higher Education and Quality of Life (May 17, 2010)