Supporting Rural Youth to Thrive (part 1 of 2)

One in five young people in the US lives in a rural community. For grantmakers committed to thriving youth, it’s important to understand the unique assets, opportunities, and challenges of supporting rural youth to thrive. Join GTY for a 2-part program focused on rural youth.

Past Event


November 16, 2022


2-3p ET / 11a-noon PT



PART 1. Voices from the Field

Join GTY and a panel of practitioners to discuss the opportunities and challenges to thriving in rural communities. We’ll discuss: caution against the notion that rural places are all alike; the importance of listening to local expertise and youth voice; the unique strengths of rural communities; and how challenges including economic stagnation, and stress, anxiety and depression are impacting rural youth.

This program is free and open to grantmakers and others in the thriving youth community. GTY’s webinars and funder learning opportunities are made possible through the time and expertise of presenters from the field.

In the spirit of transparency, GTY will make available the list of webinar participants to presenters upon request, unless the registrant requests to remain anonymous (please indicate your preference via the registration form).

Webinar Recording


Dr. Michael Figueroa

Chair, Children’s Cabinet, West Kern Consortium Community Schools, CEO, Figueroa Consulting

Michael is a system-level strategist committed to transforming public education, especially for the most marginalized student populations. In his first job after college, Michael co-directed the opening of 25 after-school programs in four public school districts. This evolved into a number of administrative roles designing and leading large-scale, K-12 initiatives including a statewide mentoring program with 16 school districts. In addition to these leadership experiences, Michael has worked as a consultant and coach for executive teams, specializing in organizational learning and continuous improvement. When he is not working hard on behalf of young people, Michael is a husband and busy father of three in Bakersfield, CA.

Dr. Gerri M. Maxwell

Professor and Chair of Educational Leadership, Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi

Dr. Gerri M. Maxwell is Professor and Chair of Educational Leadership at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi. She received her Ph.D. in Educational Administration from Texas A&M in 2004. Her dissertation topic was a life history of her grandfather, who served as a rural school custodian for over fifty years, revealing  the significant role of support staff in schools. Over her career, she has authored and implemented $30M in external funding including university and public-school initiatives targeting improvement in high needs rural schools in both central and south Texas. Most recently, she supported Premont ISD as a successful turnaround effort through its non-closure period, contributing authorship and implementation of $8.6 million in external funding. Her student focus includes leading 31+ dissertations to completion in support of Latina/o school leaders which aligns to her commitment to equity and social justice. She has 40+ publications and 40+ presentations including multiple studies shared at the American Educational Research Association in both Division A Leadership as well as in the Rural SIG. She served as chair of the National Rural Education diversity team for five years, as well as on the editorial board of The Rural Educator.

Fidelina Saso

Assistant Superintendent, Los Hills Unified Elementary School District

Fidelina Saso, Assistant Superintendent and Project Director for Full-Service Community School, School Climate Transformation, and California Community School Program. Fidelina has been with the Lost Hills Union Elementary School District for 20 years, where she has served as a teacher, coordinator, and district administrator.

Moderated by

Ayeola Kinlaw

Facilitator, Grantmakers for Thriving Youth

Ayeola Kinlaw is an independent consultant who specializes in philanthropic strategy, organizational improvement, and networked communities. In addition to her work as a facilitator at GTY, she also serves as a Project Director at Columbia University’s Center for Public Research and Leadership (CPRL). At CPRL, she provides research, organizational strategy and development, and philanthropic advising services to non-profit organizations and foundations. She also serves as the project manager for the Building Equitable Learning Environments (BELE) Network. Prior to launching her consulting practice, Ayeola served as a Senior Program Officer at the Wallace Foundation focused on school and district leadership and was the founding director of the 100Kin10 Funders Collaborative where she supported the strategic philanthropy of more than 34 national, regional, and corporate funders. Ayeola has a B.S. from Duke University and an Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Related Discussion

Supporting Rural Youth to Thrive, PART 2:
Effectively Investing in Rural Youth

In the second webinar in this series we talked with local and national funders and federal policymakers focused on investing in rural youth and their communities. We discussed: why investing in rural communities is so important; strategies, behaviors and mindsets that are essential for success; and pitfalls to avoid.