Community Electric sends local youth to D.C.
Students get to experience capital, political process
If you need a guide next time you go to Washington, D.C., three youths from Community Electric Cooperative’s territory have the know how to take you through the city.
Rachel Butler, Ethan Willette and Kendall Pulley represented Community Electric this year on the annual Electric Cooperative Youth Tour. They were among the 1,800 youths from 43 states who converged on Washington for a firsthand look at government, culture and activities in the nation’s capital.
“I love meeting new people, seeing where they come from and hearing their accents — just knowing about how they live in different states,” said Kendall, a student at Windsor High School. “It’s an amazing experience.”
Brenda Mansfield, manager of member services at Community Electric, accompanied the trio as a chaperone. She too was amazed at how much ground the tour covered during its run from Sunday, June 16, to Thursday, June 20.
“It’s an opportunity that not many kids get to experience,” she said. “They really can take this with them for the rest of their lives.”
The students were eligible for consideration because their parents are members of Community Electric. While they knew each other — Rachel and Ethan attend Isle of Wight Academy, while Kendall and Rachel are in the same 4-H Club — they weren’t totally sure what to expect.
“I didn’t think it was going to be as organized as it was. I was very impressed with that,” Rachel said. “I like traveling so I was excited to see all the sites because I’ve only been one other time and that was just to the Smithsonian.”
As it was, they hit the Jefferson Memorial and a Potomac River cruise on the very first day. Monday brought a trek up and down the National Mall to the Lincoln Memorial and other monuments, a visit to the African-American History Museum, and a stop at Nationals Park, though the ballgame between Washington and Philadelphia was rained out.
The tour followed that up with stops at Arlington National Cemetery, the White House gates, the National Zoo, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Capitol Hill and the Pentagon. No wonder the feet got a little weary by the end.
Ethan said he was struck by the changing of the guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. “You see it on TV but it’s different seeing it in real life,” he said.
The trip to the zoo also was a big hit. Kendall wants to be a veterinarian, so she took an interest in the animals. Rachel is looking into something with agriculture, maybe with her family’s cattle business, but she likes horses and could see an equine-oriented future.
“I definitely liked seeing the Lincoln Memorial because I’ve always wanted to see it,” Rachel said. “You see all these things in movies but you never think to go to the actual place.”
Beside the sites and sounds, the youths said they learned something important about themselves as a part of Youth Tour. Counting on her fingers. Rachel estimated that she’d met about 10 new friends.
“It definitely has taught me to open up to more people and I’ve made new friends and found I have a lot in common with people I don’t know,” Kendall added.
In all, about 1,800 students from 43 states converged on Washington for the tour, which officially started in 1958 at the suggestion of then-Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson. The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) oversees the tour in the belief that co-op youths should experience the nation’s capital up close and learn about the political process.
“We are honored supporters of the Youth Tour. We believe by investing in our students, we are investing in our future. These outstanding young men and women, without a doubt, will one day become outstanding leaders within the communities we serve. It is a privilege to sponsor them!” said Steven A. Harmon, president and CEO of Community Electric Cooperative.
Rising seniors who are interested in attending the 2020 Youth Tour may submit their applications beginning Oct. 1, 2019. Candidates will be selected and announced in February 2020. Click here for more information on Youth Tour