By Mary Catherine Gaston
There are a few things that make Brice Bonds stand out from the crowd. For starters, he was born with cerebral palsy, so he gets around a little differently than most folks. Second, he is one third of a set of triplets—not something you come across every day. Maybe most astonishingly, he is a hard-working, well-spoken, high-achieving Millennial who plans to use his college education and work experience to land a great job…in rural Georgia.
Growing up in Swainsboro, population 7,486, Brice was frequently encouraged to do his best so that one day, he could move on to some place bigger—meaning better. The logic seemed solid to the small-town kid and son of educators who saw the law of supply and demand at work in his neck of the woods when it came to long-term plans: Plenty of good people, not enough “good” jobs to go around.
What seemed like a one-way trajectory out of town came to a screeching halt when the life-long Georgia Bulldog fan set foot on the campus of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton. The product of a 1A public school, Brice graduated in a class of just 80 students. ABAC felt like home, and he decided to give it a try.
“I got there and loved it,” he says.
In fact, he loved it so much and got involved in so many activities on campus, he changed his plans again. Instead of the two-year degree he had initially set his sites on, Brice decided to stay twice as long and earn a bachelor’s.
He will leave ABAC with a double major in diversified agriculture and agribusiness, but that’s not all. Through the school’s required internship program, he has also gained a greater appreciation for all that rural Georgia has to offer bright young people like himself.
“A lot of folks are encouraging kids to get out of the rural areas, but I’ve been all over rural Georgia this summer, and I have friends in rural communities all over this country,” he says. “Agriculture is a booming industry, and that doesn’t just mean farming. There are so many opportunities in rural places that people don’t even realize, and internships expose young people to those opportunities.”
Internships like the one Brice completed with Lasseter Equipment Company in Tifton do more than just expose young people to the reality that there is something for them if they choose rural. Seeing capable, enthusiastic young people like Brice make the choice to “come home” to Georgia’s small towns and rural communities renews energy and hope in those places. Brice has seen it happen firsthand, and he has something to say about the future of “forgotten” Georgia.
“Young people need to be encouraged more—to be shown the opportunities that exist in rural places,” he says.
On the campus of every Georgia high school, college and university are countless young people like Brice who look forward to building careers and raising families in small towns and rural communities. Georgia’s Rural Center exists to help make their dreams a reality by repositioning the state’s rural places to once again thrive both economically and culturally. One way we will make that happen is by investing the most valuable capital there is—human capital—through internships and special projects and watching our investment grow. Every Georgian holds stock in the future of this great state, so each one of us stands to gain. It’s time to get down to business.