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Youth Initiative

New Generation Initiative

Transforming North Carolina's rural communities through youth and young adult engagement


The North Carolina New Generation Initiative opens exciting new opportunities for rural young people and the communities they live in. Opportunities for young people to become engaged as community leaders … to start businesses … to train for skilled jobs in high-demand fields. Opportunities for communities to learn how to more fully involve youth and young adults in economic and civic life.



The Rural Center announced the initiative at the 2011 Rural Partners Forum. More than 7,000 young people and their mentors are expected to participate in the initiative over three years.


Individuals or organizations in North Carolina’s 85 rural counties are eligible to apply for each of the initiative’s programs:


New Generation Ventures – help for young entrepreneurs

New Generation Leaders – grants to mobilize young leaders

New Generation Communities – training and resources

 Download initiative overview and program summaries.



We know that successful rural communities must have a population of young people engaged in decision-making and actively working to grow their local economies. Yet each year, hundreds of young people move away to attend college, join the military or take a job – and never return to become part of the economic and social life of their hometowns. Many who stay feel disconnected from the mainstream of decision-making and activity.


During 2010-11, the Rural Center took several steps toward understanding the aspirations of rural youth and their perspectives on their communities. We coupled these with an examination of statistical data regarding the well-being of children, youth and youth adults in rural North Carolina. Young and Rural: A Snapshot of Rural North Carolina’s New Generation summarizes the findings.


Building on this research, the 2011 Rural Partners Forum engaged over 650 people in exploring what it means to be young and rural. The young people who led most of the discussion inspired their elders with examples of entrepreneurship, public service and perseverance.


The initiative

The North Carolina New Generation Initiative aims to help rural communities transform themselves by fully embracing the promise represented by their young people. It provides $3.6 million in resources to engage rural youth and young adults in the life of their communities and foster the next generation of rural business owners, skilled workers and economic and community leaders. It is a three-year project supported by public and private partners and led by the Rural Center.


It is established on the belief that:

  • Young people will generate opportunities for themselves and others if given the chance
  • Committed, caring community mentors for these young people will enhance their likelihood of success
  • Young people who are engaged in their communities are more likely to stay or return after college or other life experiences to live, work and raise their families.

North Carolina New Generation Advisory Council will advise the center on implementation of the initiative, join with other leading programs to explore opportunities to increase youth involvement in community life, and develop a New Generation Action Plan to respond to the challenges facing youth and young adults in rural communities.



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The initiative is made possible by the support of public and private funding partners.



New Generation Ventures makes self-employment an attractive and attainable career option for rural young adults, ages 18 to 30. The program is open to young people who commit to launch their business in one of North Carolina’s 85 rural counties. Ventures supports young entrepreneurs with business counseling, scholarships for business training, networking opportunities and access to new forms of capital. Applications are being accepted now.



New Generation Leaders encourages teams of young people to tackle community improvement projects of their own creation. Aided by grants, young people ages 16 to 30 work with established leadership to design and implement a project, immersing themselves in the community's history, culture and economy.



New Generation Communities offers high-quality resources and training opportunities for people of all ages who seek to more fully engage youth and young adults in economic and community life. Participants receive training on such topics as fostering entrepreneurship and creating a welcoming community. In addition, the Youth Engagement Resource Guide provides information on state and national programs that can aid these efforts. It is available in print format and is incorporated into the online Rural Resource Guide.



Misty Herget, Director of Leadership

N.C. Rural Economic Development Center

4021 Carya Drive

Raleigh, NC 27610

Telephone: 919-250-4314

Fax: 919-250-4325