Amount Requested: $10,000 for General Operating Support of Youth Programs
Mission: To serve the citizens of Highland County by being a catalyst for cultural and economic development. The Center forges partnerships with Highland County schools, government agencies, and community organizations to fulfill its mission through four program areas: Youth Development, Local Foods & Agriculture, Business Incubation, and Community & Economic Development. We envision Highland’s future as a vibrant, creative and sustainable place to live, with a resilient economy and culture.
Constituents Served: The Highland Center estimates that it had an impact on 4,872 individuals in Highland and Bath counties in Virginia and Pocahontas and Pendleton counties in West Virginia, including approximately 290 young people, over the last year. We serve as a home for numerous small businesses, non-profit organizations, artists, and community events. We operate the Highland Farmers’ Market, lead a regional Farmers Market Promotion Program, and provide online marketing for small farmers. We provide counseling and technical support to small businesses. Finally, the Center now owns and runs the historic Highland Inn, which will be the home of a new internship program in the culinary and hospitality industries.
Program Overview: One of our main goals for 2016 is capitalizing on our current momentum in youth development. We must continue to emphasize those initiatives and programs to meet a demand for services that is higher than ever after the enthusiasm generated by our 2015 successes. This is important in a community such as ours, where employment and leadership development opportunities for teenagers are extremely limited, and youth outmigration is a major demographic challenge.
In 2015, our Youth Employment Program provided 1,530 hours of work and learning experiences for 14 Highland youth ages 12-20. We launched, with the support of the Community Foundation, a Highland chapter of the Youth Philanthropy Council to help train the next generation of county leaders. The Center coordinated the activities of our county’s Youth Coalition, a group of 7 agencies and community organizations that exchanges information and explores ways to reinforce each other’s youth initiatives. Our purchase of The Highland Inn will allow us to further expand youth opportunities: in partnership with state officials and community colleges, we are developing registered internships and apprenticeships in the fields of culinary arts, hospitality, customer service, and building maintenance. The Center worked closely with Goodwill Industries, the provider managing the funding for at-risk youth through the Shenandoah Valley Workforce Investment Board. Center staff oversaw a banner year for the 2015 iteration of the local school garden, where 152 student gardeners grew more than 270 pounds of produce that was used in the school cafeteria and taken home to be shared with their families.
The most important thing that needs to occur in our current fiscal year is a thoughtful integration of all these youth programs into our overall community and economic development efforts, so that young people are active players in building community projects and discovering entrepreneurial opportunities. In the long run, that is the only sustainable way to build the human capital and economic resiliency Highland needs to reverse negative demographic trends.
Current Operating Budget: $301,939