CARSON MILBURN and VANESSA REZA were selected by Pioneer Electric to attend the 57th annual Electric Cooperative Youth Tour in Washington, D.C. From June 8 to 15, Milburn and Reza joined more than 1,800 high school students nationwide to experience our nation’s capital, government and history.
Their journey began with a quick orientation and a night tour of the Kansas State Capitol. A late night made way to an early morning as any trace of tiredness was removed after bucket truck rides and a hearty breakfast with the staff of FreeState Electric Cooperative in Topeka. From there, they followed the yellow brick road out toward Washington, D.C.
Arriving in D.C., the pace of the trip only increased as each day brought new sights, sounds and stories to share. Delegates viewed various monuments, stood in silence at the Holocaust Memorial Museum, met the waxy doppelgangers of Madame Tussauds, danced with the “grandson” of George Washington at Mount Vernon and paid respects at Arlington National Cemetery. New to this year’s trip was a guided tour of the White House.
“The students were thrilled to be able to take the self-guided tour of this beautiful historical site,” Shana Read, director of communications for Kansas Electric Cooperatives
and youth tour director, said. “As the tour was also on Flag Day, each student was given a ﬂag while on the tour, fostering a strong sense of patriotism.”
Scattered between each adventure were brief moments for delegates to sit back and explore at their own pace. Milburn, Reza and their new friends paddled boats in the Baltimore Harbor, cheered at a professional baseball game, tried out sushi and purchased souvenirs.
“I made so many great friends on this trip and met a lot of people who were just like me,” said Milburn. “It was cool to experience that. It just goes to show that no matter where you are, you can be yourself.”
Along with their own delegation, students had the opportunity to meet with others from across the U.S. in various workshops and activities. Together, the record-breaking 1,800 students spent a day listening to speakers who encouraged them not to be afraid to stand up for change.
“You can’t really describe an experience like this,” said Reza. “We met so many wonderful people on Youth Tour. Although we may have different personalities, we all have the same mind-set and want to make our communities better places.”
Milburn and Reza learned about the cooperatives and the importance f communities coming together to accomplish great things. National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO Jim Matheson spoke about the history of co-ops and their role in bringing electricity to rural America. Delegates also had the opportunity to speak to Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, Congressmen Ron Estes and Roger Marshall and Senators Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts. Our Kansas representatives gave students a look at the inner workings of our legislation. The legislators echoed the importance of community involvement and encouraged delegates to be active in representing topics important to rural Americans.
“What I love about this trip is t it challenges these students to look past themselves and see what they can bring to their communities and schools,” said Pioneer Electric Communications Specialist Drew Waechter. “This is what a cooperative is all about. It’s looking past our differences and realizing there is so much we can do when we work together. It has been an honor to have these students represent Pioneer Electric, and I’m excited to see what they will accomplish in the future.”
Preparations for the 2018 Youth Tour are already underway, so keep an eye out during the fall 2017 semester for more information about the upcoming trip. Applications will be available to sophomores and juniors who attend Elkhart, Hugoton, Lakin, Moscow, Rolla, Stanton County, Syracuse and Ulysses high schools.
“Youth Tour is a great opportunity for our students,” said Waechter. “With the ongoing support of our members, we hope to continue this opportunity in the years to come!”
For additional photos and videos from the delegates’ journey, be sure to check out Pioneer Electric’s Facebook page or here.