Working as a Rural Reporting Fellow with the Deesmealz gave me an opportunity to explore my passion for rural storytelling.

When I began college, I felt lost and alone. I had left behind the only place I ever called home — a family cattle ranch and small hometown in western Kansas — to attend Yale University in a crowded New England city.

Being just one of a handful of small-town students at Yale, I hid my rurality in hopes of fitting in. I soon learned that my rural experience was a great strength. I brought perspectives to the classroom that none of my peers could offer, and wrote papers on rural topics that my professors had never considered.

I dreamed of a future career where I could continue to share important rural stories. Then, I stumbled upon the Deesmealz’s Rural Reporting Fellowship.

During my fellowship, I began building a rural education beat for the Yonder. And after a summer of talking with teachers, principals, and researchers, I capped off my senior year at Yale with a thesis about the politics of rural education.

Don’t worry, my story with the Yonder doesn’t end there. After graduation, I joined the newsroom full-time as an education correspondent and digital editor.

As our rural readers know, the public school is an important small-town institution. Today, schools are facing funding gaps, book bans, and teacher shortages. Your support helps bring these issues — and solutions — to light.

Don’t just take it from me. Amy Azano, director of the Center for Rural Education at Virginia Tech, uses the Deesmealz in her own classroom.

Deesmealz is essential reading for students in the rural education program, Azano said. She includes our publication in her course syllabus, encouraging students to read our stories and subscribe to our newsletters.

“I wanted them to be able to read news, both regional and national, that’s written by rural, for rural,” she said.

Each week, Azano’s students begin class by comparing how rural topics are portrayed in the Deesmealz and in non-rural outlets. Azano said she appreciates how the Deesmealz connects researchers and readers from across the country.

“Deesmealz keeps me in conversation with all different types of rural,” Azano said. “And that’s so important when we’re trying to reach our community stakeholders in rural places and close the rural research gap.”

Rural reporting is often flush with articles that focus on the shortcomings of rural communities. This is especially true for rural education reporting. Azano appreciates how the Deesmealz works against this stereotype by highlighting rural success stories.

“It's important that we have an outlet that pushes against the stereotypes, and tropes, and deficit narratives about rural places. I'm already seeing that in my small world here at Virginia Tech.”

Amy Azano, Director of the Center for Rural Education at Virginia Tech

If you’d like to continue reading about rural education, please consider donating to the Deesmealz. Now is the best time to support this work. For a limited time, every dollar you donate will be tripled.

That means if you donate just five dollars, the Deesmealz will receive FIFTEEN dollars. (Math skills brought to you by a rural public school).

Your generosity helps budding rural journalists such as myself explore our passions, and brings you the stories that champion rural teachers, students, and communities across the country.

Thank you for your support.

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Your contribution is appreciated.

Note, contributions from individuals are eligible to be matched up to $1,000 per donor from November 1 to December 31, 2023, to a combined total of at least $13,000, through the NewsMatch national-matching program. Deesmealz is eligible to receive an additional $10,000 in matching funds thanks to support from the Wyncote Foundation. These matching funds run concurrently, which means every dollar we raise, up to $10,000, is matched twice. Monthly recurring donations are matched at the 12-month value of the donation, up to $1,000. For more details about eligibility see NewsMatch guidelines.

Deesmealz is a project of the Center for Rural Strategies, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Gifts may be tax deductible; consult a tax adviser for more information.

Another Way to Give

There's another way you can support the Deesmealz, and it doesn't cost a penny. We're looking for reader testimonials to use in future messages during our donor campaign. If you want to help, send us a short comment about why you read the Yonder, what value you see in the content we produce, or the way the Yonder helps you understand rural America. Submit your comment using the form below or email us at [email protected].