Initiative targets young professionals in rural Kansas

In a Facebook Live video on July 8, Kansas Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers and Kansas Sampler Foundation Executive Director Marci Penner announced the launch of Kansas Power Up and Go, a state initiative to attract and retain young professionals in rural Kansas.

The program is a partnership between the state’s Office of Rural Prosperity and the Kansas Sampler Foundation.

Gov. Laura Kelly created the Office of Rural Prosperity in January 2019 to discuss policy issues that affect rural Kansans, ensure that they have a voice in the statehouse and aid rural development, said Rogers, who oversees the office.

Out-migration from rural areas and the loss of rural community and the aging workforce affect all of Kansas, not just rural Kansans, he said.

“This not only affects our economy, but it also affects the viability and longevity of each one of our rural communities,” Rogers said.

Kansas Power Up and Go aims to empower, retain, engage and recruit young rural professionals ages 21 to 39 in rural Kansas by identifying policies, programs and investments that would benefit them most, he continued. The partnership will survey rural Kansans under the age of 40 in all 105 counties.

“It is important for us to collect as many responses as possible to help really understand what young people want and need to be engaged in and empowered in their communities and to want to stay in or move to rural Kansas,” Penner said.

She said the project is an extension of the Power Up movement started about 15 years ago by the Kansas Sampler Foundation, a 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to preserve and sustain rural culture by educating Kansans.

While conducting research for her Kansas Guidebook, Penner met many enthusiastic young people with vision during her travels to communities around the state. “The common ground always is that they were rural by choice and passionate about rural living and making their communities better. Those that I met have inspired this effort,” she said.

Rogers said the effort will support personal and professional advancement, reinforce the community and business benefit of engaging young professionals, and form marketing efforts to encourage young people to stay in rural Kansas.

“The results have the potential to alter how we look at living and working in rural communities,” Penner emphasized.

Those who are ages 21 to 39 and identify as rural may contact Penner at [email protected] or 620-585-2374. Professional and leadership groups interested in participating in the effort are also encouraged to contact Penner.

Shauna Rumbaugh can be reached at 620-227-1805 or [email protected].