The road to self discovery
For many teens, the Rural Electric Youth Tour is full of “firsts.” It may be the first time they left the state, flew on a plane, visited the nation’s capital or have been away from their family for an extended period of time. They are seeing and experiencing the larger world through their own eyes, rather than through their parents’ perspective. That’s the most important first, as it’s truly a “leap” to their next phase and where their journey to adulthood begins.
In preparation for Youth Tour, teens learn about cooperatives, our history and grassroots advocacy through provided material. Youth Tour sprang from a suggestion of then Senator Lyndon Johnson to a national gathering of co-ops. Johnson felt youth from rural areas would benefit by visiting Washington D.C. to see first-hand how government works and gain a wider perspective through the experience. From this idea, Youth Tour evolved. High school students selected by their electric co-ops participate in a week long trip to the nation’s capital.
The week is interspersed with visits to many D.C. monuments and sites, including Capitol Hill. Activities with Youth Tour delegations from across the country enable teens to meet a broad spectrum of co-op kids. Our program creates a safe space for teens to discover the adults they are striving to be. Teens leave behind their hometown identity and venture forward with a fresh slate. Students are encouraged to stretch themselves by talking to those they wouldn’t ordinarily interact with.
A highlight of Youth Tour includes a meeting with our congressional delegation. Teens learn first-hand that their elected officials work for their hometown community. Students often have the opportunity to discuss issues with legislators and our chaperones are always impressed with the interactions and questions asked by our students. Youth Tour culminates in a farewell evening featuring national co-op partner organizations from the financial and insurance sectors and NRECA International, an organization bringing electricity to rural areas in developing countries.
Nearly all teens who have participated in our Youth Tour program look back with fond memories of an educational, interesting and eventful week. Many make lifelong friends. For a few, Youth Tour is a transformational experience. Parents remark how their child returned noticeably different – more mature, more confident with bigger goals and aspirations; they have a sense of purpose.
Take the leap
Our teens are our future, and it’s looking brighter every day. We hope you will consider urging your teen to “take the leap” and join our next Youth Tour delegation.
OEC is pleased to choose one delegate to represent our local co-op at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) Youth Tour in Washington, D.C. The trip is hosted by NRECA and all expenses are paid by Oconto Electric, according to our cooperative principles to support youth and community.
Any current high school sophomore or junior whose parent or guardian is a residential member of Oconto Electric Cooperative is eligible. (Residential is defined as having the primary residence within OEC’s service territory.)
Applications can be found at www.ocontoelectric.com or picked up at the OEC office in Oconto Falls. Applications must be submitted on or before January 5, 2018. Applications received after January 5, 2018, will not be considered.