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Youth Tour

The Electric Cooperative Youth Tour has brought high school students to Washington, D.C. each year for a week in June since the late 1950s. Students apply for this program by electric cooperatives through different selection processes. All co-ops believe that it’s important for students to visit our nation’s capital, learn about the political process and enhance their leadership skills through various activities during the trip.

Students gain a personal understanding of American history and their role as a citizen by meeting their representatives and senators. While student groups are organized at the state level, they all come together for Youth Day, where they get to meet students from all across the country and hear featured speakers who provide insight to the important roles electric cooperatives play in their communities.

More than 50,000 students from rural areas and small towns across America have participated in this program. Some of our Youth Tour alumni have gone on to design airplanes, to lead companies like Apple, and to serve in the highest ranks of our government, including the U.S. Senate. Don’t be surprised if you run into a former Youth Tour participant who is a congressional aide on Capitol Hill. While several of our alumni work in Washington, you will find even more alumni in your own community.

Origins and History
Senator Lyndon B. Johnson inspired the Youth Tour when he addressed the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) annual meeting in Chicago in 1957. The Senator and future president declared, “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.” Consequently, some Texas electric cooperatives sent groups of young people to Washington to work during the summer in Senator Johnson’s office. In 1958, a rural electric cooperative in Iowa sponsored the first group of 34 young people on a week-long study tour of our nation’s capital. Later that same year, another bus load came to Washington from Illinois. The idea grew and other states sent bus loads of young people throughout the summer. By 1959, the “Youth Tour” had grown to 130 students.

In 1964, NRECA began to coordinate joint activities among the state delegations and suggested that co-op representatives from each state arrange to be in Washington, D.C., during Youth Tour week. Word of the program has continued to spread and today, more than 1,500 students and over 250 chaperones participate in the Youth Tour every year.

Youth Tour directors from each state association arrange their delegation’s visits to their U.S. representatives’ and senators’ offices, federal agencies and other educational and sightseeing activities. In addition to the planned statewide activities, the Youth Tour experience encompasses multi-state activities coordinated by NRECA. The Alabama Rural Electric Association (AREA) oversees and coordinates the Montgomery and Washington Youth Tours for Alabama.

Montgomery Youth Tour
The 2024 Montgomery Youth Tour was held March 13-15. Approximately 140 high school students represented cooperatives from around the state. They took part in team building activities that promote leadership development, played games to learn more about electric cooperatives and heard from elected state officials about current issues facing our state.

Washington Youth Tour
The 2024 Washington Youth Tour is scheduled to take place June 17-23. The Alabama Youth Tour group typically includes about 55 students and eight chaperones. Alabama’s student delegation will join more than 1,000 other high-school students from around the country for this fun activity-filled week. Read on to learn about the historical places our Washington Youth Tour group will visit.

VISITS TO CAPITOL HILL
The Alabama Rural Electric Association (AREA) coordinates congressional visits with U.S. Representatives and Senators from Alabama. Lawmakers discuss topics on everything from energy policy to world affairs.

SIGHTSEEING TOURS
The Alabama group typically tours the following attractions in the Washington, D.C., area: Arlington National Cemetery; Mt. Vernon; the FDR Memorial; Jefferson Memorial; the Vietnam, Korean, World War II and Iwo Jima memorials; the Lincoln Memorial; the Smithsonian museums; the National Museum of the Marine Corps; and the Holocaust Museum.

RURAL ELECTRIC YOUTH DAY
In addition to taking in the sights and sounds of our nation’s capital, all the state groups will convene for Rural Electric Youth Day. This event is a highlight of the week-long Youth Tour and students will listen to inspirational speakers who challenge individuals of all ages that despite difficult circumstances, you can take responsibility and be empowered in your life.

YOUTH LEADERSHIP COUNCIL
Each year, several Washington Youth Tour winners in Alabama interview for an opportunity to represent our state on NRECA’s Youth Leadership Council (YLC). The council is comprised of one student representative from each state that participates in NRECA’s Youth Leadership Conference. These students help direct the focus of youth programs and learn more extensive leadership skills. Alabama’s YLC Delegate attends a special leadership conference in Washington, D.C., as well as the NRECA annual meeting the following year. Only the Washington Youth Tour winners from each participating co-op can interview for this honor. In 2013, CEC’s Washington Youth Tour Winner Alexandria Selman (Red Level High School) was selected to represent Alabama on the Youth Leadership Council. Other former YLC Delegates sponsored by CEC include Katie Robbins (Kinston High School) in 2009 and TaRonda Randall (Brantley High School) in 2007.

Participation in the the Youth Tour program through CEC begins when interested high school juniors at schools served by CEC write an essay. The essay topic varies from year to year. A flyer about the program is given to students in October when a CEC representative visits those schools to present the program. All essays must have an application attached when submitted to CEC by the stated deadline each year. Students can submit their essay and application via email to psingleton@covington.coop, or mail it to 18836 US Hwy 84, Andalusia, AL 36421. Submissions can also be dropped off at the main office during normal working hours. All applicants will receive a notification via email and/or text before the Thanksgiving holiday.