By Wesley Coburn -
Every summer, a select group of 70 high school juniors from all over the state get an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. as part of the National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (NRECA)’s Youth Tour. The statewide delegation is sent by the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives (OAEC), and consists of students from almost all of the OAEC member co-ops’ service areas.
“Youth Tour is a one-of-a-kind experience that you’ll never forget,” Jennifer Dempsey, former Youth Tour Director, said. “In addition to visiting and seeing so many sites that you’ve only seen in history books or TV/movies, you also get to meet and form friendships with amazing young people from all over not just our state but other states, too. I think it helps expand horizons and helps the participants learn that good things can come from putting yourself out of your comfort zone.”
“My favorite part of the experience was making lifetime friends and memories that I will always cherish,” said Jose Hernandez, YT ’11.
Students visit a variety of historical sites, including the Smithsonian museums, Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, Mount Vernon and the Arlington National Cemetery.
I came back with a new sense of pride for my country,” said Kalon Moore, YT ’10. “It opened my eyes to some of the things our country has fought for. The Holocaust Museum was powerful. It made me realize how different the world could have been if not for our country's intervention. It's hard to explain. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the wall of names of fallen soldiers just makes it all real. It makes it hit home that people your age had to sacrifice their lives for the betterment of the world.”
The selection process varies by co-op, but for East Central Electric (ECE) the process is straightforward: write a 500-word essay.
This year’s prompt is “describe the differences between an electric cooperative and investor-owned utilities.” The essay will be judged by the following criteria: 40 percent on knowledge of subject, 40 percent on originality and creativity, and 20 percent on composition and grammar. Please use double-spacing.
Entrants must be high school juniors (11th grade) and live within the nine-county ECE service area. The service area covered by ECE includes all or parts of Creek, Lincoln, McIntosh, Muskogee, Okfuskee, Okmulgee, Seminole, Tulsa and Wagoner Counties.
Entrants do not have to be children of ECE members, just live within the ECE service area. Immediate family members of ECE employees or trustees are not eligible.
“My favorite part of the experience for me was getting to see DC through the eyes of my Youth Tourians every year, knowing what we were going to see or do next and being so excited to share it with them, knowing what their reactions were going to be,” said Dempsey. “I did it for 17 years without getting tired of visiting the same places over and over, and getting to be a small part of something that I knew they would remember forever. I will probably be ‘Spike Momma’ to someone out there the rest of my life...that’s a pretty cool legacy.”
The deadline is March 1, winners will be revealed after April 1, and the trip should take place in mid-June to early July. Mail the essay to: East Central Oklahoma Electric, ATTN - Billie Been, P.O. Box 1178, Okmulgee, OK 74447.
For more information, go to www.ecoec.com/content/how-apply.