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The Highland Center

www.thehighlandcenter.org

Mission: The mission of the Highland Center (the Center) is to serve the citizens of Highland County and the region by being a catalyst for cultural and economic development.

Community Need: As the Center attempts to spark the kind of economic development that will provide a long-term pathway to jobs and a vibrant culture, they face roadblocks familiar to other rural communities. Their fundamental challenge is a demographic one.  Over 60% of Highland County residents are above the age of 60. Enrollment in schools is just 200 students from K-12. Highland lost more than 10% of their population (now only 2,284) since the year 2000 and the majority of properties are owned by seasonal residents. To address this, the Center began with a resident attraction campaign. But even while they seek to recruit entrepreneurs and families, it is imperative to invest in the young people they already have.

To reverse -or even reduce the demographic trends in Highland, they need to convince youth to stay, or come back, and create a life for themselves. To do so, youth need to be shown that there are opportunities to be seized in Highland and that they are valued as full members of the community. Therefore; the Center places their youth programs at the heart of their work. Their focus on employment, entrepreneurship, and leadership development empowers youth to create their own opportunities. They provide a platform to shape community priorities, and a chance to acquire the skills to build a successful life in Highland.

Constituents Served: The Center’s service area includes Highland, Bath, and Alleghany counties.  They are also active in Pocahontas and Pendleton counties in WV. They served more than 6,000 people during the recently completed fiscal year.  The Highland Center’s youth programs served youth ages 5-24. They estimate that in these program areas -employment and workforce development, local foods, arts, and leadership development, they served approximately 415 area youth.

Primary Activities: The Center forges partnerships with county schools, government agencies, community organizations, and tenants to fulfill its mission through four program areas:  Youth Development; Local Foods and Agriculture; Business Incubation; and Community and Economic Development.  The Youth Development program provides employment, leadership opportunities, and cultural enrichment for young people through three separate initiatives:

  • Youth Employment Program (YEP) has been crucial to youth and workforce development in the county for almost 40 years. It engages young people ages 14-19 in work at local businesses, nonprofits, and county facilities so they can develop essential skills—all while providing them educational workshops on resumes, interview skills, entrepreneurship, and basic finances.
  • Youth Philanthropy Council (YPC) is a service and leadership development program that aims to give young people the opportunity to shape the course of the county according to their priorities. Over the past two years, YPC members (9-12th Grade) have allocated $15,000 to local nonprofits.
  • Youth Coalition is a venue for collaboration and problem solving. The Center coordinates quarterly meetings with representatives from eight community stakeholders in youth development.

Amount Requested: $10,000

Operating Budget: $562,608

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