Rural & Native Initiative

It’s clear that young people in rural communities face tough challenges when it comes to accessing education and employment opportunities:

  • 30% are more likely to grow up in poverty than their urban counterparts. The stark reality is that of the nation’s 200 poorest counties, 189 of them are in rural areas.
  • Only 21% of all rural young adults hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 34% of their non-rural peers. 
  • Fewer jobs are available, and the average rural worker earns 33% less than their urban counterpart.

Other issues contribute to the barriers they face and affect the quality and availability of education, employment,  health and human services:

  • Sixty-eight percent of rural residents live in areas with limited or no public transportation. 
  • There is limited access to broadband services (which would at least provide an alternate means of “virtual transportation”).

All these challenges play a large role in young people's decisions to stay or return to their rural communities, and ultimately have profound, long-term consequences for local economies. Yet despite the harsh statistics, rural youth continue to indicate that, if given the opportunity for meaningful work at a livable wage, they would prefer to stay.

YouthBuild USA established the Rural and Native Initiative in 1999 to support and strengthen the operating capacity and sustainability of rural and Native YouthBuild programs. We have four overarching goals:

  • Support the development of active rural and Native young leaders;
  • Reinforce youth development as an integral part of rural community sustainability;
  • Strengthen the program capacity of existing rural and Native YouthBuild sites;
  • Impact broader rural policy with particular emphasis in the Mississippi Delta; Appalachia, borderland/colonias regions; and Native communities. 
  • Encourage the development of new programs, particularly in Native communities

YouthBuild USA partners with the National Rural Assembly, a movement of people and organizations devoted to building a stronger, more vibrant rural America for children, families, and communities.

Since 2006, the YouthBuild USA Rural and Native Initiative has received funding through the Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) from the United States Department of Agriculture.  Through the support of USDA RCDI funds, close to 100 rural and tribal YouthBuild programs are working to explore new approaches for fostering community economic development to create sustainable employment opportunities for low-income young adults.