In June, 36 students followed an electric cooperative tradition of more than 60 years and traveled to the nation’s capital for a week of education, entertainment and engagement with teens from across the U.S. After two years of alternate locations, VMDAEC staff were excited to be back in D.C.

The delegates and 15 co-op chaperones kicked off the week with a visit to the Jefferson Memorial followed by a dinner cruise on the Potomac River. They enjoyed a great meal and danced the night away with their counterparts from Georgia, Mississippi and North Dakota.

“Youth Tour was a great experience,” says Brooke Womack, delegate for Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative. “We visited a lot of historic sites, met with legislative representatives, and I got to meet a lot of people my age from other states. It was both educational and fun! I am so grateful to Mecklenburg Electric for giving me the opportunity to go.”

Following a round of interviews, three outstanding delegates were selected to represent each of the three states on the Youth Leadership Council. This year’s YLC delegates are Austin Dean, Southside Electric Cooperative, Virginia; Samadhi Griffin, Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative; and Desen Basaran, Delaware Electric Cooperative. YLC members share a unique opportunity to return to Washington, D.C., for a workshop focused on building leadership and public speaking skills, enhance knowledge of the cooperative form of business, and build life-long friendships with other student leaders from across the country. Each student will prepare a short speech about what inspired them during their Youth Tour trip. One exceptional student will be selected as the YLC national spokesperson and address the membership at the 2024 NRECA Annual Meeting in San Antonio, Texas, as well as the delegates at next year’s Youth Tour.

Youth Tour delegates visited Arlington National Cemetery and witnessed the dramatic changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. After lunch at the infamous Carmine’s Italian Restaurant, the group explored the Smithsonian National Zoo and enjoyed a ballgame between the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals. Other highlights include touring the National Mall and Pentagon Memorial and a live performance of “The Lion King” at the Kennedy Center Opera House.

Visiting Capitol Hill is always a high point of Youth Tour. Delegates are afforded personal interactions with members of Congress — and legislative aids — for some honest conversations surrounding current events. Later that day, delegates gathered at NRECA Youth Day and were inspired by a moving presentation by Mike Schlappi, four-time paralympic medalist and two-time wheelchair basketball world champion.

This year’s week-long excursion concluded with a guided tour and demonstrations at the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative facilities in Hughesville, Md.

Sen. Lyndon Baines Johnson inspired the Youth Tour at the 1957 NRECA Annual Meeting in Chicago by declaring, “If one thing comes out of this meeting, it will be sending youngsters to the national capital where they can actually see what the flag stands for and represents.” More than 60 years later, Youth Tour has grown to attract more than 1,800 students each year.

–Report by Jim Robertson, Director of Marketing, VMDAEC.