Seven students from the Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative service area spent a week in our nation’s capital recently as delegates on the 2019 Washington Youth Tour. Tela Benson, Bledsoe County High School; Emma Seagroves, Grundy County High School;, Maddie Ashburn, Marion County High School; Declan Swafford, Richard Hardy Memorial School; Emma Bradford, Sequatchie County High School; Meagan Mackey, South Pittsburg High School and Morgan Green, Whitwell High School; were among 135 students from across Tennessee on the week-long trip that began on June 14.
The annual event, sponsored by SVEC and the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, provides young leaders with an opportunity to explore the nation’s capital learn about government and cooperatives and develop their leadership skills. Students were selected for the trip by writing short stories titled “Electric Cooperatives – Connecting Communities” that explain how co-ops provide communities with much more than electric power.
“The Youth Tour is a unique opportunity for these young people to experience history and public policy up-close and personal,” says Mike Partin, SVEC CEO. “Tour delegates experience an exciting week visiting museums, monuments and other landmarks and learning about leadership, history and government.”
“We take great pride in recognizing the best and brightest from across Tennessee,” said Todd Blocker, vice president of member relations for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and tour director. “By honoring their accomplishments through programs like the Washington Youth Tour, we show these future leaders that their co-op cares about the future. We want these young people to come home with a better understanding of their nation and new passion to serve their community.”
While in Washington, D.C., Tennessee’s Youth Tour delegates saw 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 Wars. During visits to the museums of the Smithsonian Institution, the touring Tennesseans saw and experienced natural, historical and artistic treasures. Other fun stops included historic homes of former presidents — George Washington’s Mount Vernon and Jefferson’s Monticello — as well as Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and a boat cruise down the Potomac River. The group also paid a solemn and sobering visit to Arlington National Cemetery where the delegates laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
For many, the highlight of the trip was hearing from Holocaust survivor Esther Starobin at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Her advice to the delegates was, “Don’t be a bystander in this world. You have to know history and pay attention to it. Get involved and learn as much as you can with more than a single viewpoint.”
The group was welcomed to the U.S. Capitol by Sens. Lamar Alexander and Marsha Blackburn and members of the Tennessee congressional delegation who posed for photos and answered questions.
During the Youth Tour a public speaking contest and interview process was conducted to select Tennessee’s delegate to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s Youth Leadership Conference. Each of the 43 States participating in the Washington Youth Tour program selects a delegate for the YLC. SVEC’s Maddie Ashburn, daughter of Neal and Hope Ashburn of Whitwell, was selected as Tennessee’s delegate and will attend the YLC Conference in D.C. July 13-17, the TECA Annual Meeting in Nashville in November and the NRECA Annual Meeting in New Orleans in March of 2020.
Keslin Moore, a senior from Bledsoe County High School and daughter of Jeff and Karla Moore of Pikeville was awarded a $10,000 Cooperative Youth Ambassador Scholarship. Moore was a 2018 delegate of the Washington Youth Tour. In the year following the tour, delegates who remain engaged with their sponsoring cooperative and complete certain community service requirements are eligible for the scholarship. Moore’s name was randomly selected from among the 50 delegates from across the state who completed the requirements.
“An investment in these young people is also an investment in the communities we serve,” said David Callis, CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “These are exceptional students, and our hope is that their youth tour experience empowers them to return home and make a difference in their communities.”
President Lyndon Johnson inspired the Washington Youth Tour in 1957 when he encouraged electric cooperatives to send youngsters to the nation’s capital. In the years since, more than 6,000 young Tennesseans have been delegates on the Washington Youth Tour.
For more information on SVEC’s youth programs visit www.svalleyec.com.