Sixteen North Dakota high school students returned June 14 from the 54th-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, the students develop leadership skills and a national network of peers. Each year, high school students learn firsthand what it is like to be involved in politics, community development and today’s social issues.
Past participants have described this as “a once-in-a-lifetime” experience. The students are sponsored by their family’s electric distribution cooperative. This year’s participant, Lilly Bina, Park River, represented Nodak Electric Cooperative on the Youth Tour.
Coordination of the Youth Tour is 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. Year after year, the Youth Tour has been followed up with glowing praise from participants; this year was no exception.
Why does Nodak Electric offer this experience to our area youth? Because we realize it is more vital than ever that today’s young people understand and support the rural electrification program, for they are tomorrow’s leaders and consumers.
Education is a fundamental principle of electric cooperatives. Boards of directors and co-op leaders believe it’s imperative to help students understand the democratic process and gain the skills necessary to become leaders. Through the Youth Tour, co-ops across the country have made unforgettable impacts on students for more than half a century.
Every fall, Nodak issues the Youth Tour essay contest to local sophomores and juniors. By early February, submissions are collected and judged, and the winners are contacted in preparation for the trip in June.