On the first day of the National Rural Assembly, the Daily Yonder asked young people from different communities to talk about their homes, their work, and their lives. Here’s what they said. (PHOTO: Rebecca Haider of the Center for Small Towns and Amrita Ramanan of Double Edge Theatre. By Shawn Poynter)


Dustin Warren and Megan Gregory know a lot about their respective communities. Sometimes, perhaps, a little too much.

“I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty stressful,” said Gregory, who works for the tribal government of the Tlingit and Haida Tribes in Alaska. She’s secretary to the president of the Central Council, which serves 30,000 members in southeast Alaska.

In the Missouri Ozarks, Warren also has a front-row seat on events in his rural community. He’s an assistant to the clerk of Oregon County, which has a population of about 10,000.

At the opening day of the National Rural Assembly, the Daily Yonder asked Warren and Gregory to sit down and talk to each other two different approaches to serving similar community needs.

Rebecca Haider and Amrita Ramanan are two other young adults who participated in the Rural Assembly’s leadership development workshop Tuesday. The workshop trained participants to tell stories and talk about their work in ways that can affect policy.

Haider and Ramana are both storytellers, but in very different ways.

Haider is the data services and outreach coordinator for the Center for Small Towns at the University of Minnesota at Morris. Amrita is associate producer of Double Edge Theatre in rural Ashfield, Massachusetts.

“I try to find the stories the numbers want to tell, because numbers can lie as easy as people,” Haider says. Her job is to provide data, planning assistance, and set up event-planning internships to send students into the small towns.

Ramanan’s work focuses on theater art, not numbers. Double Edge is located in an old dairy farm in Western Massachusetts, where the players and staff still raise animals and tend gardens.

They talked about the value they found in each other’s work.

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