More than 140 high school juniors from across Tennessee experienced an in-depth look at our nation’s capital during the 2013 Rural Electric Youth Tour.
Samantha Tucker, Liz Gurley and Carrie Rozar, all from Lincoln County, were rewarded with a weeklong tour of Washington, D.C., for writing winning short stories titled, “Electric Cooperatives: Powering Your Communities” describing how locally owned, locally operated rural electric systems provide valuable community-building support in addition to reliable and affordable electric service.
“Washington is an incredible place,” said Fayetteville Public Utilities’ CEO and General Manager Britt Dye. “These three students had the opportunity to meet Tennessee’s representatives and senators and see some absolutely remarkable things. FPU is proud to offer this opportunity to our youth.”
The Washington Youth Tour is a joint effort of Fayetteville Public Utilities, the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Each school year, FPU and local high schools sponsor a short story contest for high school juniors. Winners are awarded spots on the expense-paid trip to our nation’s capital the following June as part of the Washington Youth Tour. This year’s tour ran June 14-20 and included meeting with Tennessee’s elected officials, visits to Washington’s popular tourist stops and time to visit with winners representing other electric utilities across the state.
“The youth tour is one of the most rewarding things I do all year,” said Gina Warren, FPU’s public information specialist who served as a Youth Tour chaperone. “These students not only learn about our nation and their electric system, but they also learn leadership skills that will benefit them in college and beyond.”
Students on the tour visited 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 conflicts. Strolls through the varied museums of the Smithsonian Institution afforded the students opportunities to learn more about science, history and art. Other fun and interesting stops included homes of former presidents – George Washington’s Mount Vernon and Jefferson’s Monticello – a performance of “Shear Madness” at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, a boat cruise down the Potomac River and tours of the National Museum of Crime and Punishment, Ford’s Theatre and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.
The youth tour also included a solemn and sobering visit to Arlington National Cemetery, where the group laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. The Tennessee group marveled at the precision and skill of the U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps and Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon at the Sunset Parade, performed in front of the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial’s iconic statue re-creating the flag-raising over Iwo Jima during World War II.
No trip to Washington, D.C. would be complete without a lesson or two in government and civics. The group was welcomed to the U.S. Capitol by Reps. Marsha Blackburn and Stephen Fincher, and their staff members treated students to a special after-hours VIP tour. Students also met Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, as well as former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen. Representative Scott DesJarlais also spent some time with his constituents outside the Capitol and posed for photos.
Tennessee’s Youth Tour delegation joined other trip winners from across the country for Youth Day on Monday June 17. More than 1,500 students came together to swap stories of their Washington experiences. They listened to presentations by former Nebraska State Senator David Landis, who told, in character, the story of the late U.S. Sen. George W. Norris of Nebraska, explaining the formation of and the politics surrounding the creation of electric cooperatives and the Rural Electrification Act. And, Mike Schlappi, a four-time Paralympic medalist and two-time wheelchair basketball champion, urged the young attendees, “Just because you cant stand up, doesn’t mean you cant stand out.”
“Our communities and our hometown utilities need strong leadership, and the Washington Youth Tour is one way we can help prepare students for the roles they may one day fill,” said Dye. “The tour and similar educational opportunities made possible by Fayetteville Public Utilities are designed to help students understand what it takes to be a leader in their communities and why leadership is so important.”