Young people from Gen Z are moving to cities around the West. But in doing so, they’re also out-migrating from rural hometowns in places like Wyoming and New Mexico. Conversations between young people about why they leave and why they stay.

 

 

Right now, moving to the Mountain West is the trendy thing to do. Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Utah, all are hotspots for new tech and business. (Because who can afford the rent in places like LA or New York?!) Since Colorado legalized pot, it’s become a sort of mecca, and Bozeman and Livingston, Montana, think of them as the new Austin and Marfa.

But two Western states don’t yet seem to be on the radar.

New Mexico’s population growth hasn’t seen much action and Wyoming’s has dropped for the third year in a row now. Most of that decline is from young people who are leaving the state for jobs in places like Denver and Phoenix. Around 60 percent of Gen Z kids between 18 and 24 leave Wyoming every year.

But the number of kids leaving rural towns now could have some dire consequences for the American West. Like old folks left behind with no one to take care of them, and towns without kids in their schools. So it’d be good to know what goes into this decision to leave or stay? Is it professional? Personal? We wanted to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.

 

Quentin Meyer and Ryan Walson. Credit Charles Fournier

Quentin Meyer and Ryan Walson are recent graduates of Torrington High who grew up on the eastern plains of Wyoming. They talked to each other what it is about Wyoming they love so much.

 

Connor Sears and Jesse Archambeau left Wyoming, but hope to come back to contribute to LGBTQ activism.

Connor Sears and Jesse Archambeau are recent graduates of Cheyenne East High School. They both left Wyoming and now live in Peoria, Illinois where they found a thriving LGBTQ community.  They told each other they both feel a little guilty they didn’t stay to create the kind of community that they wish they’d had, like last year when a principal at a Cheyenne middle school banned LGBTQ pride flags.

 

Gabby St. Clair and Angelo Sage. Credit Savannah Maher.

Growing up on the Wind River Reservation, Eastern Shoshone member Gabby St. Clair and Northern Arapaho member Angelo Sage said their families gave them a sense of identity and belonging, even when frightening incidents hit close to home, like the recent police shooting of a Native man with a knife in front of a Walmart in the reservation border town of Riverton, the town where Angelo went to school.

 

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