Several reasons Mississippi is losing young people have been identified recently, the most problematic — Mississippi’s reputation. Although stated issues do play a major role, I believe there is another reason that has been overlooked.
Millennials comprise 31 percent of the U.S. population and 34 percent of the workforce. Yet, millennials account for over 80 percent of the 4 million babies born in America every year. Millennials are parents, parents with young children; I am one of them. We monitor the ingredients in our kids’ food, buy nontoxic toys made from renewable resources and use cloth diapers. We want flexible, quality education that provides individual, intellectual and creative challenge. We tell our kids being kind is more important than being smart or beautiful.
We can do better than not losing “our” people. We must go beyond not being 50th. We must attract young people to Mississippi by providing a creative, strategic vision in areas millennial parents care about: opportunity, sustainability and health.
Improve opportunity by improving education. Fully fund education, pay teachers more and encourage nontraditional models in public, charter, online and home schools. Improve the environment. Clean up the Sound, stop littering and ban plastic bags, and use those computer chips to charge residents who don’t recycle. Improve health by promoting local farming, providing crosswalks and stop the use of vaccines until proven safe for every child, designate car-free areas, advance holistic health care. Mississippi will be bold, inventive and the place to raise our children.