Most of these students will admit it — writing a short story about their electric cooperative for a chance to win a trip didn’t seem like anything other than a regular class assignment. B-O-R-I-N-G. They will also admit this: They had no idea what the experience of winning the chance to join the Washington Youth Tour would mean to them.
“It really is the opportunity of a lifetime. It was amazing, and I will never forget it,” says Sarah Terry, who represented Gibson Electric Membership Corporation. Terry’s essay placed third in statewide competition, earning her a $1,000 college scholarship. “Youth Tour helps educate teenagers about our government and provides us with new experiences that will help us decide what we want in our future. We also learn more about our electric cooperatives and how important they really are in our everyday lives. It inspires the future leaders of America.
“I can’t thank my electric cooperative enough for providing me and other students with this amazing opportunity.”
With an equal dose of nervousness and anticipation, each of the 150 high school seniors-to-be boarded the tour buses June 13 bound for D.C. Having only met their chaperones once or twice, most didn’t know anyone else on the trip. As they rode across Tennessee, picking up more students at each stop, the nervousness quickly gave way to countless conversations, selfies and introductions.
“You gain a completely new outlook on life,” says Denisha Patrick, who represented Chickasaw Electric Cooperative. Patrick was chosen to as Tennessee’s member of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Youth Leadership Council. “During the trip I learned so much about the different wars and battles our country has suffered from. This made me love and respect even more the people who gave their lives for this country.”
Sponsoring the Washington Youth Tour is just one of the ways your locally owned electric cooperative gives back to your community. “It’s part of our mission to educate youth,” says Todd Blocker, director of member services for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “The Youth Tour gives students an insightful experience in our nation’s capital while encouraging them to set their sights on the future. We hope this trip helps these students by opening the door to what their personal potential is while giving them a glimpse of what our nation has to offer.”
Students and chaperones spent a week touring D.C.’s memorials, historic sites and museums.
“The Youth Tour is an amazing program that provides youth of all backgrounds the opportunity to learn, explore and grow,” says Emily Fleeman, who represented Tennessee Valley Electric Cooperative. Fleeman’s short story placed second in statewide competition, earning her a $2,000 scholarship. “We continually learned about our nation and ourselves, we explored Washington, D.C., and we grew in knowledge and in our abilities. The Youth Tour allows students to realize their potential as the future leaders of the United States.”
Whether it was making new friends, meeting elected officials or walking among the hallowed memorials, students described the trip as I-N-S-P-I-R-I-N-G.
“While I have visited Washington, D.C., before, this trip was an amazing privilege to be a part of,” says Kai Starmer, who represented Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation. Starmer’s essay won him a $3,000 scholarship for placing first in statewide competition. “Seeing our nation’s capital, no matter how many times, is breathtaking. I am very happy to have gone on this trip, and I can say that, without a doubt, it is the trip of a lifetime.”