Young people believe in Lafayette. Does Lafayette believe in them?

People talking in a chic wine shop

Young people are thinking about leaving Lafayette all the time, and many of them follow through. That was a key takeaway from Should I Stay or Should I Go, our first live journalism event and the kick-off for our Hub Citizen: Next Wave initiative. 

As a young professional myself, I can relate. Why? In a word: Opportunity.

Jobs, housing and education feel stagnant and limited, attendees told us, echoing what we saw in our surveys earlier this year. Lafayette generally isn’t growing in the areas young people are willing to stay for. 

We’ve heard many of these themes before. And over the course of the next few months, our Next Wave initiative will ask resident youths to help us understand what keeps them here and what drives them away.

As part of that effort, The Current will join Advancing Democracy, a fellowship of newsrooms across the U.S. developing solution-focused ways to cover elections and build trust. 

Young people aren’t apathetic about the state of affairs: They want to see change happen, but say it can feel daunting figuring out where to start.

Aidan Milford, 22, initially came to Lafayette from Slidell for school, and is looking as far as outside of the country after graduation. He loves Lafayette and Louisiana as whole, he just needs the right opportunity to keep him here. 

“An opportunity to work and to display the wildlife and culture of Louisiana to a wider audience, that would keep me here,” he said. “I could talk to people for hours about Louisiana—and its flora and fauna and its people…I love this place.”

Aidan Milford

Lafayette native Taj Johnson, 25, already has the opportunity to study abroad in Europe and isn’t sure if he’ll come back. He also loves Lafayette’s communal feel, but is pained by how overlooked the Northside often is. 

“It’s a beautiful place but the perspectives are skewed a lot,” he says. “I’ve encountered people that don’t think of upper Lafayette as [a part of] Lafayette. It hurts a little bit…that not everyone sees Lafayette in its totality.”

Taj Johnson

Lafayette’s culture is a double edged sword: there’s a lot of love for the food, history, and music, but the general political climate can be stifling.

Beth Harris, a 26-year-old New Iberia native, has thought of leaving but is inclined to stay for the Cajun music scene. She is currently learning to play the fiddle. 

“I do love Louisiana. The thing I’m interested in the most is the Cajun music scene. That’s, not gonna lie, the only thing keeping me here.”

Beth Harris

That was another theme we heard: Young people believe in Lafayette. But they don’t believe our leadership is listening to them. 

That’s why, over the next few months, we’re going to turn our platform over to them. 

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