That was the munificent welcome that staff of the Hub received as they visited the city of Ripley to kick off its Turn This Town Around campaign last week. What a greeting!
Ripley was one of two communities, along with Whitesville in Boone County, to be selected for Year 2 of the Turn This Town Around program.
Clearly, this little city is ready to roll.
Ripley is a place with big ambitions. Laying claim to having the “Biggest Small Town Fourth of July Celebration” in the nation, the people of Ripley are no strangers to finding ways to promote and celebrate their community of about 3,200 people in Jackson County.
In 1965, the Today Show visited Ripley to telecast its July 4th festivities. It was a moment of national promotion they are hoping to repeat – a grassroots campaign is afoot in Ripley these days to convince the Today Show to return to the city for the 50th anniversary of that 1965 telecast.
But what we learned from our meeting in Ripley last week is that there is a force of energy and excitement coming from a group of people decades removed from that one day in 1965. Whereas at many Turn This Town Around meetings local high school students were notable by their absence, in Ripley they were the life of the party.
“The students were amazing! I really applaud them,” says Amanda Yager, the Hub’s Director of Community Strategies. “There was very little student involvement in the Matewan and Grafton Turn This Town Around programs, so it’s great to see student interest here from the very beginning.”
Amanda says a group of Ripley High School students immediately engaged Hub staff at the meeting with ideas of how to bring more young people into Turn This Town Around planning, and their eagerness to form a Ripley community development student group.
– create a Twitter and Remind101 account to keep students updated;
– create a video explaining how TTTA works;
– set up a table for students to sign up to attend the meeting, or sign up for tasks.
“They talked about the importance of having a community they are proud of, a place where they will be proud to raise their own children,” Amanda said. “They had been told that the Hub was going to come in to Ripley and basically do everything; that that’s what Turn This Town Around is. When we explained to them that, yes, we’ll be there to help and provide guidance, but that the actual work will be done by the people of Ripley, they were pumped. You could really see their excitement!”
We think that engaging young people in the future of their community is really important to making those efforts sustainable, vibrant and long-lasting.
Are students or young people in your town or city actively involved in local community development projects?