The power of young voices
By Wendy Royston
Dylan Fulton and Camden Breitling, students at Miller High School, came to RuralX on scholarship through Dakota Resources.
Fulton, who said he hopes to one day return to Miller after being educated elsewhere, enjoyed the Empower roundtable, where the students told a group of adult change-makers how the program is impacting their community of Miller.
He noted that he was welcomed to share his opinion without feeling rushed.
“It kind of makes you feel … like you matter,” Fulton said.
Through the Empower program and other initiatives back home in Miller, Fulton and Breightling both are becoming more active in their community—something they said has value to teens.
“It kind of makes me feel like I’m actually part of the decision-making process—like my opinion counts,” Breightling said, adding that it’s become evident that the community wants “us involved more and more. That’s something that not all towns do.”
And that has led to both teens desiring to build a future in their hometown.
“I really don’t know what I want to do yet, but whatever I decide, if I can come back, I would like to,” said Fulton. “A small community makes you feel safe and you know everyone. It’s just ‘home.’”
The youths said they would take some of the ideas from RuralX—particularly OpenX, an opportunity for attendees to develop an agenda based on a loosely set framework, to encourage free-flowing idea exchange—back to their high school extracurriculars, to encourage conversation among teens who maybe wouldn’t otherwise feel comfortable opening up with their ideas.