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The Vital Role of Newcomers in Rural Communities: Making Places Feel Like Home

Updated January 19, 2024
Professional headshot of Kara Harders

Kara Harders

SDSU Extension Community Vitality Field Specialist

Multi-ethnic family unloading a moving truck.
(Canva photo)

In small towns and rural areas, new folks bring big changes that matter a lot. When people move to different states or areas, they have all sorts of reasons for choosing those locations. Understanding these reasons is key to knowing how newcomers help places grow. Right now, SDSU Extension is asking new people in South Dakota what's important to them in their communities and what makes them want to stick around.

Newcomers aren't just faces in a crowd—they're the ones who bring new energy and ideas to small towns. Experts study this, and they've seen that, when fresh faces show up, it can be like a breath of fresh air for communities.

You might wonder why someone chooses to move to a specific town or state. Well, there are all sorts of reasons! Some come for jobs or better work opportunities. Others might move for the beautiful landscapes or a slower pace of life. Some pick a place because of family ties or friends already living there. Understanding these reasons helps communities see what makes them attractive to new folks.

When newcomers arrive, they're like a boost for small towns. They often bring new skills, different perspectives, and lots of enthusiasm. They bring a bit of their own spice to the mix, making things more interesting. And it's not just about them moving in; it's about what they do when they get there.

Some newcomers dive right in—they join clubs, volunteer, start businesses, and get involved in making decisions for their community. This isn't just good for the town; it's good for everyone. They bring fresh ideas, help businesses grow, and make the place feel more connected; others may need a bit more of a “pull” from others in the community to come out of their shell.

What makes newcomers feel at home?

Diverse group of young adults at a city council meeting.
(Canva photo)

SDSU Extension is asking new people who moved to South Dakota about their thoughts and feelings. They want to know what these newcomers think is important in their communities and what makes them want to stay. The aim is to get a better picture of what's already great and what could be even better, or what already exists that could be better showcased and promoted.

Understanding what makes newcomers feel at home is critically important. When communities know what's important to these new residents, they can relieve a bit of the mystery surrounding them. Maybe it's about creating more job opportunities, inventing fun events, or even improving schools. Knowing these things helps make the place more welcoming and helps keep these new faces around.

In the end, newcomers can be the secret ingredient that makes small towns better. They bring new ideas and energy, making these places feel like home for everyone. And now, with SDSU Extension asking newcomers about what's important, these communities can become even better places to live, work, and grow.

Remember, when new people come in, they bring fresh perspectives and ideas. And when they feel welcomed and understood, they stick around and help make things better for everyone.

If you or someone you know has moved to a community in South Dakota, please take or encourage them to take the SDSU Extension Newcomers Survey.