Have you heard the comment lately, that “We are living in strange times?” Well, that may be true, but we are also living in a time with many positive things taking place. NRECA began the annual Youth Tour over 60 years ago to give students the opportunity to travel to Washington, DC and learn more about United States history. It also teaches youths about the power of democracy while exploring the House and Senate. Last year, after a 3-year Covid pandemic hiatus, the youth across America headed back to DC to explore this great nation.
The Seven cooperative principles govern the role and responsibility of our nation’s cooperatives. Three of these include Education and Training, Cooperation Among Cooperatives, and Concern for Community. The Youth Tour embodies all three of these tenets.
As a rising Senior in high school, (thirty-four years ago in the Summer of 1989), I wrote an essay for a contest sponsored by my local electric co-operative, Gibson EMC in Tennessee, along with the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. Little did I know that I would be the male winner from my high school and be awarded a week-long trip to Washington DC. Because I grew up very shy throughout my childhood, traveling away many miles from home without anyone that I knew did not seem like a great prize at the time. I can remember boarding the bus in the cooperative parking lot and waving goodbye to my parents. I also remember my flight home at the end of the week – all smiles with lifetime friends, many who to this day, still stay in contact.
The week was a complete non-stop whirlwind. We toured numerous sites including the Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument, Arlington National Cemetery, and yes, even the White House. What an experience for a 17-year-old from rural America who had never even flown in a plane before! This had a huge impact on my life and future.
Eighteen years later, I worked for that same cooperative as VP of Member Care and helped serve the members. Today, I still have the privilege to serve the utility community as a Relationship Manager for Meridian Cooperative. I am blessed to be part of this community. I am thankful for NRECA and the cooperative teams who continue this legacy of investing in the future of our youth. Today’s Youth – Tomorrow’s Leaders.