One of the great traditions of Kentucky’s electric cooperatives is unfolding again in 2018 as 90 high school seniors and 15 chaperones have begun this year’s Washington Youth Tour.
Students boarded buses at Kentucky’s local electric co-ops Friday morning, ultimately rallying at the Clark County Extension Office for lunch and orientation before heading to Charleston, West Virginia for the night. On Saturday, the students are touring Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, before making their way to the nation’s capital.
“We have had a very smooth start,” says Mary Beth Dennis of the Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives, the coordinator of the trip. “The first two days are always an exciting time for us because we get to watch the students start to come out of their shells and form friendships, friendships we hope last a lifetime.”
KAEChas been coordinating the tour for Kentucky co-ops since 1972, when 18 students and four chaperones made the trip.
The students join more than 1,800 of rural America’s best and brightest high-schoolers who will visit Washington, D.C. to learn about the political process, interact with elected officials and gain an up-close understanding of American history.
Now in its 53rdyear, the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour is a weeklongprogram that includes Youth Day on June 11, a spirited gathering of young delegates and featured speakers.
Among Kentucky’s youth tour alumni are business leaders, elected officials, journalists, and many engaged co-op consumer-members and citizens.
One of the first orders of business for the Kentucky delegation will be electing its representative on the Youth Leadership Council, a yearlong appointment to represent Kentucky electric cooperatives on the national and state level.
Last year, Allison Wade of Jackson Energy Cooperative, McKee, was selected as the YLCrepresentative.
“Throughout the Youth Tour, I made memories and friendships that I will carry with me for the rest of my life,” Wade says. “And I am beyond grateful to share this experience with other cooperatives across Kentucky.”
Local electric cooperatives set their own criteria to select which students they will sponsor on the all-expenses-paid trip.
“It is an investment in our co-op youth and the future of the co-ops themselves,” says Chris Perry, KAECpresident. “We are so proud of these students. They impress us with their passion for their communities and our nation, and they give us hope for the future.”