Nora Sampson, 14, interviews third generation family farmer, Kevin Horihan of Fillmore County about the changing face of agriculture in and around Lanesboro during the 2016 Youth Access Technology Project (YATP). The program, funded by the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street program, will return in 2018 to Houston County in partnership with the City of Houston and KARST Driftless Guidepost. 
COURTESY OF TAYLOR HARRIS
Nora Sampson, 14, interviews third generation family farmer, Kevin Horihan of Fillmore County about the changing face of agriculture in and around Lanesboro during the 2016 Youth Access Technology Project (YATP). The program, funded by the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street program, will return in 2018 to Houston County in partnership with the City of Houston and KARST Driftless Guidepost. COURTESY OF TAYLOR HARRIS

On Tuesday, Oct. 17, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) announced Houston as one of seven Small Town Grants winners. The city was awarded $10,000 for its upcoming youth-driven “Stories: YES Houston” local history and multimedia educational program. The funding will support this countywide project in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service Museums on Main Street (MoMs) division.

In 2017, MoMs selected Houston as one of only six communities across the U.S. to participate in this new rural history pilot program for youth.

“Stories: YES Houston” will guide Houston County area youth, ages 13 to 18, through a three-month process to work with local historians, media artists, entrepreneurs, business owners, farmers and laborers to tell the story of Houston’s worker history. They will blend their research and interviews with their own experiences in Houston to discuss the future of the county’s rural economy. In the end, they’ll create compelling multimedia stories and shape a public multimedia exhibit in Houston titled, “The Way We Worked.”

The city pursued this opportunity with community partner, KARST Driftless Guidepost. KARST is a one-of-a-kind community hub for visitors, artists, entrepreneurs and businesses in the heart of downtown Houston. It started as a citizen-designed travel center to motivate visitors and locals alike to explore everything Houston County has to offer.

The organization, founded by resident historian Erin Dorbin, will be the home base for the program, offering physical meeting and workshop space for participating youth and community members. It also is positioned in direct line of view with the Root River Bike Trail Trailhead/Houston Nature Center and will be an important space for the exhibit installation.

“For the past 30 years, we’ve seen people come together to enhance their communities,” said SMIF President and CEO Tim Penny. “SMIF’s new Small Town Grants program is intended to put air under the wings of some of those ideas, whether the community needs help with strategic planning, funds to implement a project or a stipend to support a leadership development program.”

Communities were selected from a competitive application process. All communities of 5,000 or less in SMIF’s 20-county region were eligible to apply. SMIF awarded a total of $61,500 in Small Town Grants. A second round will open in the spring of 2018.

City of Houston City Administrator Christina Peterson said, “The city is excited for this project and for the opportunity to partner with KARST. Engaging youth to research and document past economic values of the community will create an important connection to the future.”

If one knows a young person interested in developing skills in media production, research, exhibit design, and storytelling, contact program coordinator Erin Dorbin at StoriesYesHouston@gmail.com or 507-884-2275.