The Texas Rural Challenge is a state-wide conference held annually to focus upon challenges and opportunities that faced in rural Texas. The conference brings together business and government leaders from across the state, federal and state agencies, along with citizens from rural Texas. This year’s Fifth Annual Texas Rural Challenge was held in Waco, Texas. The theme for the conference focused upon the dedication to provide sustainable, rural livelihood: From Seed to Prosperity. OC Intern Crystal Mendez had the opportunity to participate in the conference.
Mendez participated in a panel onYouth Development with two other gentlemen from Pioneer Youth Programs. The group discussed topics such as youth engagement, youth entrepreneurship, and intern programs, as well as ways that Pioneer Youth Programs added programs into the local school curriculum.
Feedback to the panel’s discussion was incredibly positive. Some members of the audience asked for more information on obtaining a speaker for their community. While it was a very promising direction for the future of youth in the state of Texas (and the High Plains region), it was also very clear that there is still much that can be done. Mendez reports that her time at the conference made her even more grateful for Ogallala Commons and the work it does, and more eager to see Ogallala Commons’ programs reach more areas. She summed it up by saying, “I love the work that has been accomplished, the leadership that is in place, and the continued success I see from the interns”
While at the Texas Rural Challenge, Crystal had the opportunities to listen to many speakers and panels. One speech of particular interest to Mendez was given by Pati Jacobs, CEO of Bastrop Cattle Company. Jacobs pointed out many ways that the absence of youth in their rural areas has impacted their business. This speech echoed the main sentiment of the conference: that an overall goal for rural communities must be to engage the youth in their areas and create valuable opportunities for them to contribute to the area workforce.
Crystal and Ogallala Commons want to thank the University of Texas-San Antonio for providing the materials and supplies she would need to present, and Texas Rural Innovators for funding her trip. Both she and Ogallala Commons have benefited from this experience.