Communities participate in the Great Community Book Read

Thirteen South Dakota communities are participating in the Great Community Book Read — more are welcome.

The Great Community Book Read assists communities in examining the use of their educational resources and the consequences of those decisions. The participants are focused on taking simple action steps to make their communities more attractive to high school graduates.

To participate community members commit to reading and discussing the book, Hollowing Out the Middle: The Rural Brain Drain and What it Means for American by Patrick J. Carr and Maria J. Kefalas. It is a study of graduates of a small town high school. The authors identify four types of graduates:

  •  The Achievers – those who are programmed to leave the community;
  •  The Seekers – those who want to see the world and get out of town;
  • The Stayers – those who remain, don't participate in any postsecondary education, and have limited employment opportunities;
  • The Returners – those who earn postsecondary education, develop careers and return to raise a family.

Participants discuss the categories and then brainstorm strategies for taking action to make their communities more attractive to the categories of graduates.

Thirteen communities have participated so far. Some of their action steps include:

  •  Armour-organizing a second book read for school board members and school administrators;
  •  De Smet-creating an organization that supports and attracts the interests of Returners and developing incentives and resources for entrepreneurs;
  • Gregory-creating scholarships for technical education and bringing technical training to town for Stayers;
  •  Iroquois-start a community newsletter and developing a skills and interest inventory of the residents;
  • Montrose-developing marketing materials that focus on the Returners;
  •  Scotland-holding a meeting with Stayers to determine their interests in the community;
  •  Tripp-exploring a mentoring program;
  •  Wagner-organizing a monthly book club to hold discussions of nonfiction, community issue based books, and opening a high school skills lab for adult Stayers;
  •  Webster-working with existing event planners to add activities that interest Returners;
  •  Volga-creating a Volga Facebook page to communicate with potential Returners and exploring the feasibility of creating an adult evening school.

For more information about the Great Community Book Read discussions or to schedule one, contact Dave Olson (605-588-5614) or

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