Youth Tour Gives Students a Close-up View of the Nation's Capital
In 1957, Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson, D-Texas, urged directors and staff of the nation's electric cooperatives to bring young people to Washington to get a first-hand look at how government works.
"If one thing goes 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,'' Johnson said at the annual meeting of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA).
In Johnson's home state, the electric cooperatives heeded his call by sending groups of young people to Washington to work during the summer in Johnson's office. In 1958, a rural electric cooperative in Iowa sponsored a week-long tour of the nation's capital for a group of 34 students. Later that same year, another busload came to Washington from Illinois. The idea soon caught on and other states began sending groups of young people to Washington throughout the summer. By 1959, the Youth Tour comprised 130 students.
In 1964, NRECA began to coordinate joint activities among the state delegations and suggested that cooperative representatives from each state arrange to be in Washington during Youth Tour week. During the first year of the coordinated tour, cooperatives from 12 states sent about 400 young people to participate. Word of the program has continued to spread. Today, more than 1,600 young people and their chaperones attend the Youth Tour every year where we celebrated 50 Years of Youth Tour.
Washington Youth Tour
What is the Washington Youth Tour? The Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperatives Washington Youth Tour is an annual, weeklong, all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC, that is open to high school students across Louisiana. This all-expense paid trip is worth $2,000.
Nine Louisiana electric cooperatives participate in the Youth Tour Program. Each electric cooperative has a unique method of selecting the student or students they will sponsor. ALEC will sponsor two students statewide from 4-H and two alternates from the electric co-ops. The 4-H Agents will have application forms in December. You can also find these forms on the Louisiana 4-H website. Nationwide, electric co-ops from 45 states participate in this event. In all, more than 1,800 young people from across the nation gather in Washington each year.
Louisiana's electric cooperatives send students to Washington for a number of reasons, including
- Rewarding students for academic achievement through a writing contest;
- Educating students about the role of electric co-ops in the national economy;
- Fostering students' appreciation for the democratic form of government;
- Exposing students to the sights and sounds of our nation's heritage; and
- Building students' leadership skills so that they may make a difference in their communities.
Students may apply to be Louisiana's representative to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) Youth Leadership Council (YLC). The YLC is composed of one representative from each of the 45 states that participate in the Youth Tour. YLC members have the opportunity for additional free travel and leadership training.
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) Youth Leadership Conference
July 15-19, 2017 -- Washington, D.C.
Daniel Bichoff, Louisiana's 2016-2017 Representative
At this workshop, all 45 YLC representatives will have the opportunity to hone their public speaking skills, develop their leadership skills, and enhance their understanding of politics. Group recreational activities will also be provided. Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperative Annual Meeting in Baton Rouge at the Hilton Capitol Center the Louisiana's YLC representative will deliver a brief (5-7 minutes) speech about his or her experiences in Washington, DC, at this meeting of electric cooperative leaders from across Louisiana.
The 2016-2017 YLC representative is Daniel Bichoff, who was sponsored by Washington-St. Tammany Electric, based in Franklinton, La. He will attend an all-expense paid trip to the NRECA Annual Meeting Feb. 25-March 1, 2017, in San Diego. The 2018 NRECA Annual Meeting will be held in Nashville.
All 45 YLC representatives will assist the NRECA staff with the NRECA annual meeting. YLC responsibilities at this four-day meeting will include participating in the meeting's opening assembly by carrying our Louisiana State Flag, staffing information booths, learning about energy issues, and assisting with committee meetings. Group recreational activities will also be provided.
Who sponsors WYT?
The Washington Youth Tour is sponsored by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), the Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperative (ALEC), and most of the Louisiana's electric distribution cooperatives.
How do I Apply?
If you are a high school student, contact your local Electric Membership Cooperative for eligibility requirements. If you are a 4-H participant, you can also apply for the youth tour trip through the statewide contest. Contact your 4-H Agent for the application forms. You do not need to be a member of an electric cooperative to apply through the statewide contest.
If you want to know whether or not you're eligible for this trip or if you need information about procedures and deadlines, your best bet is to contact the Washington Youth Tour coordinator at your local electric cooperative. If, however, your question is of a more general nature, please feel free to contact us at the Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperative. If you prefer you may also contact us by phone at 225-293-3450 or 800-355-3450 ext. 18, e-mail: Joni Kitchen at email@example.com
Participating cooperatives are listed below:
Beauregard Electric - firstname.lastname@example.org
Claiborne Electric - email@example.com
DEMCO - firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeff-Davis Electric - email@example.com
Northeast La. Power - firstname.lastname@example.org
Pointe Coupee Electric - email@example.com
South La. Electric Cooperative - firstname.lastname@example.org
Washington St. Tammany Electric - email@example.com
ALEC - firstname.lastname@example.org
The 2017 Youth Tour Orientation will be March 31, 2017
The YT Orientation will be held at the ALEC office, on Friday, March 31. Winners of each La. Electric Co-op's Youth Tour Contest will come to Baton Rouge to meet the other winners for the first time and they will learn more about the Louisiana Electric Cooperatives. We will have educational training on the electric cooperatives; fun and games; and go over the itinerary for the trip in June.
Students will arrive in New Orleans on Saturday, June 10 for a pre-trip meeting and leave early the next morning for a week long journey that they will remember for the rest of your lives. You could join 28 Louisiana participants and more than 1,800 students from 45 states for one incredible week in our nation's capital. A fast-paced, up-close, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see with your own eyes the sites and people at the center of our government.
The 2017 Washington Youth Tour trip will be June 10-16, 2017
For more information, follow these links:
Click here to view a Youth Tour promotional video: https://youtu.be/8KgS20s9c9I
Testimony from past participants:
Julie Barrios, Sabine Parish - Sponsored by ALEC on the 2009 Youth Tour through the 4-H Contest
Washington D.C.- What an amazing place! It would be great to tour this amazing city by yourself, but I had so much more fun touring it with about 30 of my closest friends! That's what the Rural Electric Youth Tour trip gave to me- a once in a lifetime experience, new friends, and awesome memories.
Coming from a small town in Northwest Louisiana, I always aspired to travel to far away places. After writing an essay and winning a trip to D.C., I was so excited. I was literally jumping up and down with anticipation for my journey to begin. When it finally did, I could not have asked for a more wonderful time. I remember walking through the Capitol Building thinking, "Wow. This is the same hallway where my forefathers walked, where laws were passed, where history was made." Needless to say, all throughout the trip I had moments like these. I would go from laughing with my friends to quietly reflecting. When we went to Arlington Cemetery, I had a major reflection moment at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was truly a moving experience to watch the changing of the guard.
All of the experiences from the trip were made a thousand times better by having my friends with me. However, the teens I traveled with were not always my friends; at first, we were complete strangers! At a pre-trip meeting in Baton Rouge we sort of got to know each other, but we truly bonded after spending many hours together on a bus while traveling to D.C. I was a little nervous about the bus ride, especially since I didn't really know anyone. By the end of the week, though, I had so many best friends. Since the end of the trip, we've still kept in contact, and even hang out. Making new friends on this trip was a great experience.
With the combination of a great location and great people, we were destined to have great times! And we had a lot of them! From singing about our bus, to dancing the night away on a cruise ship, I brought home better memories than souvenirs. My all-time favorite memory from the trip was a quiet one, though. I remember standing at the foot of the Iwo Jima memorial and watching the Marine Corp Band practicing on the lawn. Sitting there with my friends, everyone amazed at the beautiful precision and pride of the military, I thought about the great nation that I belong to, the freedoms that I have, and the gift I had been given to sit in the midst of where it all began. The Rural Electric Youth Tour trip was more than a trip to me; it was a pilgrimage to the governmental seat of our nation. I'll always remember my friends, the sights we saw, and the tears that came to my eyes when I realized the historical significance of where I was.
Jamie O'Neal, New Roads, LA - Sponsored by Pointe Coupee Electric, Youth Tour 2002,
Youth Leadership Council 2003, NRECA Youth Tour Staffer 2006-2007
Presently Dr. James W. "Jamie O'Neal, IV is a Junior Surgical Resident at East Tennessee State University
It is great to be part of something larger than yourself, but to be part of something larger than yourself and turn it into something that is your own is truly special. This is exactly my experience with the electric cooperatives. Starting off with my small hometown co-op I was fortunate enough to be selected to represent them and my state in Washington D.C. on the NRECA annual Youth Tour. At this Youth Tour I was introduced to the world of electric co-ops and learned their impact on our rural communities and our country. From the Youth Tour I was blessed once again and was chosen to represent my state on the Youth Leadership Council (YLC). If the Youth Tour wasn't already enough, the YLC went above and beyond any expectations that I could have held. From my participation in the YLC, I was later selected to come back and assist the program for a couple of years as one of the staff. In all of these many experiences, I was able to see much of our beautiful country and experience history first-hand in our nation's capital. Not only that, but I made many rich and lasting friendships that I value greatly.
My time with the electric co-ops was an important part of my life which opened many doors. The most significant early on was an internship on Capitol Hill one summer during college. All of these experiences stemmed from that one essay contest in my hometown and blossomed into years of wonderful experiences and a lifetime of friends and memories. All in all, the electric cooperatives granted me a life-changing experience for which I am forever grateful. It opened my eyes to the world and piqued my interests in travel, politics, and the concern for helping others who might otherwise not have been helped. I have traveled to several different countries including Egypt, Italy, France, and England among others and am now in my second year of medical school. Without the co-ops and the opportunities they afforded me, I'm not sure where I would be today.
Danny Bosch, Franklinton, LA, Sponsored by Washington-St. Tammany Electric, Youth Tour 2010, Youth Leadership Conference Presenter 2012-2013-2014, Jefferson Parish Legislative Delegation Aide
I have never forgotten the trip, the amazing people I met there, or the impact that I have felt since that time. I think that this trip is different from others like it because it educates Louisiana's youth on the vital importance of the electric cooperatives that serve them. They are an essential asset to life in rural Louisiana. I think that this trip is a vital service that our electric cooperatives take the time and money to provide in order to educate our youths about this essential part of our society. Without organizations such as ALEC, WSTE, Pointe Coupee Electric, or any of the other hundreds of electric cooperatives that are not only in Louisiana, but across the country, rural America would be nowhere. I am very glad I was fortunate enough to have this life changing experience and learn what it means to be served by a cooperative.