The Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) Program was founded in 1994 as a way to bring service-learning to Oregon and to offer the skills, experience and idealism of University of Oregon students to many of Oregon’s depressed rural communities. The timing was uniquely appropriate. In the mid-90’s, “service learning” was gaining attention and support across the country, and the year of RARE’s inception saw the beginning of the nationally recognized AmeriCorps program. It was also a time of significant federal investment in the Northwest in response to the mandates of the Northwest Forest Plan and the Northwest Economic Adjustment Initiative.
Since its inception, RARE AmeriCorps has placed over 400 graduate level participants in countless rural communities across the state. RARE AmeriCorps’ mission is to increase the capacity of rural communities to improve their own economic, social, and environmental conditions. To achieve this mission, every year RARE AmeriCorps places trained graduate level participants in communities across the State of Oregon where they work for public agencies, special districts, and non-profit organizations on issues of rural community building. RARE AmeriCorps impact is two-fold, both building capacity in rural communities with limited resources while also providing participants with invaluable field experience in community development and planning… A true “win-win” situation!
This year RARE AmeriCorps will celebrate its 20th anniversary of service to rural Oregon communities. For those of you who aren’t familiar with RARE AmeriCorps, the work we do is truly unique and distinctive among community development and service learning programs across the country. The fact is we really have something special going here. Giving back to the community by directly linking graduate-level students from the University of Oregon and around the country into community development efforts in rural Oregon communities is something we have and always will take pride in. In the initial 19 years of operations RARE AmeriCorps participants have taken lead on a variety of city, community, and regional initiatives, including such projects as watershed enhancement, community and economic development, parks and recreation development, sustainable food systems, main street programming and natural resource development. In the process, the program has developed a strong reputation in rural Oregon and enhanced university outreach and service to these communities. The 20th anniversary of RARE AmeriCorps provides both a milestone and an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of this wonderful organization.