Sixteen North Dakota high school students returned June 16 from the 53rd- annual Electric Cooperative Youth Tour in Washington, D.C. They joined more than 1,600 students from around the nation for a fast-paced, intensive week of learning about history and American government, visiting with their state’s congressional delegation, becoming more knowledgeable about the cooperative business model, and touring museums, national monuments and memorials. While on the tour, they develop leadership skills and a national network of peers. The students are sponsored by their family’s electric distribution cooperative.
To be selected for the all-expense-paid Youth Tour, North Dakota students entered an essay-writing contest and addressed the following essay topic: “Democracy is the foundation of our American way of life and of cooperative enterprise. The fundamentals of democracy include voter participation, political party affiliation, and public debate of issues. Describe what you think makes our current democracy strong, and provide suggestions for ways our democracy can be made stronger and more effective.”
The judging of the essays was handled by the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives (NDAREC). NDAREC serves as the liaison between the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) and the state’s distribution cooperatives for this annual youth program. NRECA is the national service organization representing the nation’s more than 900 consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.
This year, students from North Dakota and Montana were chaperoned by Pete Erickson, member services manager for North Central Electric Cooperative in Bottineau, and his wife, Lori. Joining five chaperones from Montana, the Ericksons helped guide 44 young leaders safely around the nation’s capitol.
Education is a fundamental principle of electric cooperatives. Boards of directors and managers say they believe it’s imperative to help students understand the democratic process and gain the skills necessary to become tomorrow’s leaders. By sponsoring the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour, North Dakota’s electric cooperatives are helping high school students experience government firsthand by visiting Washington, D.C., meeting their representatives and senators, and building a better understanding of our country and their role as engaged citizens.