Larissa Rich, daughter of Terry & Martha Rich of Clay County High School, Alexis Fom, daughter of Yolanda Harper, of Trousdale County High School, Megan Hay, daughter of Joseph & Kimberly Hay, of Metcalfe County High School, and Beth McConnell, daughter of Greg & Angie McConnell, of Monroe County High School, won spots on the weeklong tour of Washington, D.C., for writing winning short stories titled “Electric Cooperatives: Energizing Our Communities,” describing how locally owned, member-controlled electric cooperatives provide valuable community-building support in addition to reliable and affordable electric service. James Franklin of Clay County High School was also awarded a spot on the trip to recognize his invaluable support of the co-op’s youth programs.
The Electric Cooperative Youth Tour is a joint effort of local electric co-ops such as Tri-County Electric, the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Each school year, Tri-County Electric sponsors a short story contest for high school juniors. Winners are awarded expense-paid trips to our nation’s capital the following June as part of the Washington Youth Tour. This year’s trip ran June 11-17 and included meetings with elected officials, visits to Washington’s popular tourist stops and time to meet winners representing other co-ops across the state.
“We’ve been sending our leaders of tomorrow on expense-paid trips to our nation’s capital as part of the Washington Youth Tour for more than 40 years,” said Tina Keisling, Communications Assistant, who served as a chaperone. “This year’s tour was extremely enjoyable and successful. These essay winners represent the best from our service area, and we’re thrilled we were able to provide them this once-in-a-lifetime trip to see D.C. and learn more about their member-owned electric cooperative. The students eagerly explored all the capitol city had to offer, and they served as exemplary representatives of their hometowns and local electric co-op.”
On the tour, students saw famous sites they’d learned about in school, including the White House and memorials to past presidents Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt as well as monuments honoring the sacrifices of veterans of World War II and the Vietnam and Korean conflicts. Strolls through the varied museums of the Smithsonian Institution afforded the students opportunities to learn more about science, history and art. Other fun stops included homes of former presidents — George Washington’s Mount Vernon and Jefferson’s Monticello — a performance of “Thurgood” at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and tours of the Washington National Cathedral, Crime and Punishment Museum and the Newseum.
The Youth Tour also included a solemn and sobering visit to Arlington National Cemetery, where the group laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. The Tennessee group marveled at the precision and skill of the United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps and Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon at the Sunset Parade, performed in front of the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial’s iconic statue re-creating the flag-raising over Iwo Jima.
No trip to Washington, D.C., would be complete without a lesson or two in government and civics. The group was treated to a special after-hours, VIP guided tour of the historic U.S. Capitol by Congressman Lincoln Davis of Pall Mall and a meeting on the Capitol steps with Tennessee’s senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker. Congressman Bart Gordon also met with his constituents at the Capitol.
An annual treat, Tennessee’s Youth Tour delegation joined other trip winners from across the country for Youth Day on Monday, June 14. More than 1,500 students came together to swap stories of their Washington experiences. And Mike Schlappi, a four-time Paralympic medalist and two-time wheelchair basketball champion, returned for this year’s program to share his inspiring message for every American, young or old: “Just because you can’t stand up doesn’t mean you can’t stand out.”
“This is another wonderful program our cooperative sponsors to educate our youth on their hometown electric co-op,” said Paul Thompson, Executive Vice-President and General Manager. “Through this and similar educational opportunities made possible by Tri-County Electric and our statewide and national organizations, our future member-owners experience first-hand how we energize their communities with special community-building programs as well as affordable electricity.”