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Rural Electric Youth Tour

Claiborne Electric Cooperative recently sponsored Cydnee Wade of Ruston and William Haynes of Homer as they joined more than 1,800 other teens to participate in the 2017 Rural Electric Youth Tour in Washington, D.C. Randi Markham of Serepta was also chosen for the trip as a delegate to represent the Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperatives.

Each year, Claiborne Electric covers all expenses to send two delegates on the Rural Electric Youth Tour, which was inspired in 1957 by Senator and future President Lyndon B. Johnson. During an address to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, he urged attendees to send young people to the nation’s capital so they could see the government in action. The following summer, electric cooperatives did just that, and the Rural Electric Youth Tour was born. 

Electric Cooperatives and affiliated associations across the state and nation sponsor teens for the Youth Tour program, and participants travel to Washington, D.C. during the same week in June. This year, the Louisiana Youth Tour delegation consisted of 28 high school students and five chaperones. Wade attends Ruston High School. Haynes and Markham are students at Claiborne Academy.

On June 9, the Louisiana Youth Tour delegation met in New Orleans to make final preparations for the trip. They flew to Washington, D.C. the following morning. During the week-long Youth Tour, the students learned about electric co-ops and took advantage of many educational and sight-seeing opportunities. The group visited Capitol Hill to meet members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation, including a meeting and discussion with Senator Bill Cassidy. The students also met with other members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation. Other stops on Capitol Hill included a group tour of the Capitol building, and individual tours of the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress.

The Youth Tour delegation spent much of the week touring the city. They visited the Lincoln Monument, the World War II, Vietnam, and Korean War Memorials, Arlington National Cemetery, the Iwo Jima Memorial, the White House, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. At Arlington National Cemetery, the group witnessed the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The group also visited the Smithsonian Museums, the National Archives, and the Newseum.

While most of the week’s activities were spent with only the Louisiana delegation, the Youth Tour also included several events providing the opportunity to interact with students from other states. Those activities included the All States Youth Day program on June 12. At this program, all Youth Tour participants joined to hear inspirational speakers and swap state-themed pins and stickers with other participants.

Additional chances to spend time with students from other states were afforded on an evening cruise down the Potomac River on a luxury yacht, and a dance for the students on the last evening of the Youth Tour.

Claiborne Electric’s Youth Tour contest is held annually to select two high school juniors to participate in the week-long program. The contest is open to any junior who lives in a home or attends a school which receives power from Claiborne Electric. Participants in the contest must submit an application form and write an essay. Application forms contain information about academic and extracurricular activities. Information about the contestant is stripped from each essay during the judging process, so that judges do not know the name, school, or any other personal information about the writer.

The Rural Electric Youth Tour has seen many changes in the more than 50 years since its inception. In 1959, 130 youth attended the tour. The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) began to coordinate joint activities among the states in 1964. Today, nearly 50,000 students have participated in the tour. NRECA is the national service organization representing the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which provide electric service to 42 million people in 47 states.

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