Electric Co-op Youths Find D.C. is Trip of Lifetime
From pandas to politicians, high schoolers from electric cooperative service territories in Virginia, Maryland and Delaware got a thorough immersion in Washington, D.C., government, culture and activities during the 2019 Electric Cooperative Youth Tour.
Some 54 students from the three-state area visited monuments, met with their elected officials and staff members, and enjoyed camaraderie among their peers during the annual event, which ran from June 16 to 20.
“We had an exceptional group of young people on this year’s tour,” said Andrew Vehorn, vice president of governmental affairs at the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives and Youth Tour Director.
“They were enthusiastic and energetic, and even though we did our best to tire them out, they enjoyed experiences that they will serve them and their cooperative communities well into the future,” Vehorn said.
This year’s delegation from Virginia, Maryland and Delaware consisted of rising juniors and seniors from 12 cooperatives. Earlier this year, each cooperative selected its representatives for the all-expense-paid trip on the basis of applications, interviews and supporting materials.
In all, about 1,800 students from 43 states converged on Washington for the tour, which officially started in 1958 at the suggestion of then-Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson. The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) oversees the tour in the belief that co-op youths should experience the nation’s capital up close and learn about the political process.
“During its time, Youth Tour has brought 50,000 students from rural America to Washington. It has proven to be a tremendous way of exposing our youngest members to the foundations that our country and our cooperative family were built upon,” said Richard G. Johnstone Jr., president and CEO of the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives.
The VMD delegation covered a lot of ground between its arrival on Sunday, June 16, and its departure on Thursday, June 20. The first day of activities produced a visit to the Jefferson Memorial and a night cruise on the Potomac River.
Students also a day exploring the National Mall, visiting the Lincoln Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the African-American History Museum and other attractions. A baseball game between the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies was rained out, but youths got a chance to eat at the Nationals ballpark before returning to their hotel.
“We walked so much inside the museum and walked so much outside to see the different monuments that when we got to the game, they were glad to sit down,” said Jay Garner, public relations manager at Northern Neck Electric Cooperative and one of almost 20 chaperones on the tour.
The tour also visited Arlington National Cemetery, the National Zoo, the Pentagon, as well as Capitol Hill, where senators, representatives and their staffs met constituents who are soon to be of voting age. They also saw a performance of “Hello, Dolly!” at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and swapped state pins with others on the tour.
For many students and chaperones, the tour was a first-time visit to Washington. “I’m just like the kids. I’m learning things, all bright-eyed,” said Dustin Francis, a chaperone and community relations coordinator at Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative.
Others said they had been in Washington before, though they had not packed as much action into one visit.
“The whole trip was amazing!” said Sarah Marks, one of four representatives from Prince George Electric Cooperative and a student at Prince George High School. “The schedule was full of a bunch of wonderful activities. Although I have been to D.C. many times, there was something each day that we did that I had never done before.”
Headquartered in Glen Allen, Va., the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives provides safety and training, communications and legislative services to 15 electric cooperatives serving the three-state Mid-Atlantic region. For more information on VMDAEC and the lineman’s rodeo, visit www.vmdaec.com or www.co-opliving.com.