RYCP Projects

Working nationally, the Rural Youth Catalyst Project aims to strengthen and create opportunities that allow rural and Native youth to realize their hopes and dreams while remaining in or returning to their communities.

We seek to:

  • Change popular perception of rural and Native young people. 
  • Build the leadership and representation of rural and Native youth at the regional and national level.
  • Strengthen the capacity of local practitioners to design programs to meet the needs of rural and Native young people.
  •  Pilot innovative solutions to persistent barriers that can be replicated across rural communities.
  • Change the indicators used to measure what success looks like for rural young people and their communities.
  • Influence and shape policy to meet the needs of rural and Native youth.


We are pleased to collaborate with other organizations to carry out this work. Our current and recent projects include:

Rural Career Pathway Learning Community:  We’ve continued our work designing and facilitating learning communities for rural and Native youth practitioners. Adapted to respond to the local realities of COVID, throughout the last year, ten rural and Native youth serving organizations have been meeting regularly to sharpen their skills in developing and implementing career pathways for the opportunity youth they serve.  The Learning Community serves as an incubator for practices, the development of national partnerships, and a crucible for identifying needed policy change.

PBS American Portrait: In partnership with PBS’s American Portrait Project, we are using their prompts to generate submissions from rural and Native young people to insure inclusion of their voices and to bring visibility to their lived experiences and perspectives as part of the larger portrait of our country. Read essays from this project.

Rural Apprenticeship Policy and Practice: We are excited to be contracted with Jobs For the Future to support their TA and training work to serve rural communities and to provide analysis of the challenges, opportunities and best practices along the work-based learning continuum with particular focus on increasing registered apprenticeship opportunities for opportunity youth in rural communities.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Leadership for Wellbeing and Equity-Bhutan Study Tour and Learning Community:  On hold in 2020 due to the pandemic, we are honored to be selected for this intensive learning opportunity in the coming year with the Presencing Institute and GNH Centre of Bhutan. The program will address the challenge of “measuring what matters”, by examining survey methods in Bhutan and how the data is used; to stimulate more holistic perspectives that promote wellbeing and equity; and draw out key lessons from Bhutan for application, adaptation, and action in the U.S. For us, this provides a critical opportunity to dig into and counter the current, existing outcomes for successful opportunity youth work which are blunt, short term, and rely on external forces for success (credential attainment, job placement, retention in job, starting wage). And instead, begin to develop wellbeing measures for rural that value all our young people and communities even if they are never going to have the high growth industry arrive.

National Rural Youth Assembly Summit: The Rural Youth Assembly Summit was originally scheduled as an in-person event in McAllen, TX in March 2020, focused on the theme of “borderlands” and drawing on the work of poet, writer, activist, Gloria Anzaldúa. The event was set to bring a select group of young people together to explore the unique challenges facing rural and Native youth, identify creative solutions, and provide a context for how these issues fit into national rural policy. Participants were chosen through an application process and although the event was canceled, those same individuals form a nucleus of rural young leaders who are actively part of The Rural Youth Catalyst Project. We look forward to sharing their thinking and providing new learning and leadership opportunities in the coming year.