Community Conversations: Stories from Monadnock Young Adults

Once a month, The Monadnock Center for History and Culture and the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript partner to host a Community Conversation in Peterborough’s beautiful Bass Hall. Designed to bring different segments of the population together in discussion, each Conversation highlights an issue impacting the region. After a panel of local experts speak, the floor is opened up for comments, questions, and suggestions on what can be done in response.

Home to the Community Conversations… and much more!

These Conversations have been taking place for about four years now and have resulted in some wonderful changes to the area. The early conversation on Maker Spaces led to the creation of the MAxT Makerspace, where people gather and share tools, ideas, and work space to create all sorts of great things. After last May’s Conversation on how to welcome newcomers to the community, the Peterborough Welcome Team was formed. Visiting new residents with baskets full of local goods and hosting quarterly meet-and-greet events, the Team embodies the spirit of the town.

As an entrepreneur in Peterborough, I was invited to speak last Tuesday, April 11, on what it is like to be a young adult building a life in the Monadnock Region. I was joined by Dominique Caissie, co-founder of Terrapin Glassblowing Studio and President of TEAM Jaffrey, and Mike Giacomo, a Chemical Manufacturing Engineer and member of the Keene Young Professionals Network.

Caissie spoke first and discussed the importance of feeling invested — emotionally, financially, and professionally — in her town. With family ties, a home, and a business in Jaffrey, she is committed to building her community there. As President of TEAM Jaffrey, she works with local businesses and the Chamber of Commerce to revitalize the town’s center, using events like “Scarecrows on the Common” and “Christmas in Jaffrey” to get people downtown.

Meet for a discussion or see one of the many musical performances held in Bass Hall

The second speaker of the night, Mike Giacomo, discussed the challenge of being taken seriously by older generations. Deeply involved in Keene politics, he has faced the hypocrisy of community leaders emphasizing the need for young involvement, then dismissing his comments and questions with off-handed remarks about his age. While this is something that many of us have experienced, this is the first time I have heard it brought up in a public forum. Kudos to Mike for putting it out there. It sparked some excellent intergenerational conversation.

I used my time to discuss two main topics: housing options and business opportunities in the Monadnock Region. (The former is a major point of interest in the town right now.) For young people hoping to buy a home, New Hampshire is an affordable option with much to offer; but for those interested in renting a place and seeing what it’s like living here, options are quite limited. This sparked Tyler Ward, a member of Peterborough’s Select Board, to bring up ideas for converting a vacant building in town into living spaces that may appeal to a younger crowd. And a conversation is born!

For those in the Monadnock Region, I’d highly recommend attending the next Community Conversation. And for those not in the area, why not start your own local conversations? It’s a great way to get to know your neighbors, learn about what is going on in the region, and have your voice heard.

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