The legacies of community in building a future: rural young people envisioning “possible selves”
This article considers how the experience of community for young people from rural places (inclusive of regional and remote) can be influential in building a legacy of strengths and qualities, much like an inheritance. While there are many studies of rural youth, few consider rurality through complex social-relational dimensions; fewer still include both school and university students. We contend that legacies borne from collective hardship, pulling together and a sense of belonging can set rural young people in good stead for life beyond their smaller communities, playing a significant, yet under-explored, role in preparing them for the very personal repercussions of movement into and through university. This study explored the influence of communities on young people’s hoped-for futures through qualitative interview and survey data drawn from two groups: university students (aged 18–20) and secondary school students (aged 16–18). The theoretical concept of “possible selves” enabled a nuanced insight into motivation to achieve future goals, in which rural biographies valorised the significance of relational connectedness and socioemotional attachment to communities. Legacies of community for these young people were embodied in their capacity for complex decision-making, motivations and altruism, driven by a strong desire to give back. Universities have much to learn from the rich insights of rural youth, particularly in the post-COVID recovery, through more committed understandings of how relational aspects across policy and practice could be prioritised and implemented for the benefit of all.
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