Since the 1950s, high school students representing electric cooperatives from all across the United States have participated in the annual Electric Cooperative Youth Tour event in Washington, D.C. As this esteemed program is steeped in building lasting leadership abilities, its success and growth are continuously on the rise – with this year more than 1,800 of rural America’s best and brightest students, representing 43 states, participating. They visited the nation’s capital, taking in historic sites and educational opportunities made available to them through this life-changing, all-expenses paid experience.
Dixie Electric Power Association sponsored two of the 81 students representing Mississippi electric cooperatives. While the tour is filled with fun activities, its primary mission is to educate students about our country’s legislative and political process as well as the significance of rural electrification. The students even met and visited with many of Mississippi’s elected officials to learn and see first-hand how the federal government operates and how legislation affects every American.
The Youth Tour is sponsored locally by Dixie Electric, organized statewide by the Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi and nationally by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). This year, Lorin Brown and Courtney Lee represented Dixie Electric. Lorin, the daughter of Charlotte and Kendrick Addison of Petal, will be a senior at Petal High School. And Courtney, the daughter of Jennifer Mozingo and Tim Lee, will be a senior at Northeast Jones High School in Laurel.
These students were chosen to participate through an application and interview process in September 2018 during their junior year in high school. In February 2019, they attended the Youth Leadership Workshop in Jackson.
Though the workshop and the Washington, D.C., trip are invaluable experiences for the students, the relationships they had the opportunity to make with like-minded peers from across the state and the country will be one of the most long-term and rewarding measures of the Youth Tour.
“This year’s Youth Tour experience was phenomenal,” said Lorin. “Everything that happened on the Youth Tour had a powerful influence on me. I am ready to make a mark on the world, and I feel this experience has pushed me to do so.”
During the seven-day Youth Tour, the students visited historical and cultural sites, monuments and memorials, such as the World War II Memorial, Korean War, FDR, Lincoln, Air Force, Jefferson, The United States Marine Corps War Memorial and the memorial dedicated to the victims of the tragic 9/11 terrorist attack at the Pentagon.
In addition, they also toured museums, including the Newseum, a seven-floor, interactive museum dedicated to first amendment rights, journalistic ethics and popular historic news events. Another favorite tour was the Smithsonian Museums of Air and Space, American History, Natural History and the National Gallery of Art. New additions this year included the National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, both of which are a part of the Smithsonian Institute. Many students elected to visit the Bible Museum as well.
A visit to Nationals Park was another highlight for the participants, where they watched as the Major League Baseball team Washington Nationals took on the Arizona Diamondbacks. Following the game, they watched a beautiful sunset from the roof of the John F. Kennedy Center, the United States National Cultural Center located on the Potomac River.
After a scenic drive down Massachusetts Avenue, also known as Embassy Row, the students enjoyed a guided tour of the Washington National Cathedral, the second largest cathedral in the U.S.
A respectful visit to Arlington Cemetery gave the students the opportunity to reverently look on for the changing of the guard. Here, they also visited the gravesites of several of our nation’s prominent figures, including John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, where since 1963 the eternal flame still burns.
The pinnacle of each Youth Tour is the day spent on Capitol Hill. Freshman Rep. Michael Guest of Mississippi’s 3rd Congressional District graciously continued the tradition of guiding the students on a VIP tour of the United States Capitol building that kicked-off with a tour of the U.S. House Floor.
After the tour, the day was filled with special visits with our state’s leaders. Lorin and Courtney visited with Rep. Steven Palazzo in his Rayburn House Office Building. The students also had the opportunity to meet Sen. Roger Wicker and Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith.
“This has been a fantastic experience,” said Courtney. “Everyone here has become like family, and I have made friendships that will last a lifetime. God has blessed me abundantly this week, and I am so thankful.”