Energy is more than the ability to do work. Energy powers our imaginations and fuels positive change. That is why, for the last 50 years, approximately 1,800 students from at least 45 states have participated in the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour program each year. This five-day trip is a high-energy, interactive experience designed to help young people grow as leaders and takes place June 10–15.
Through an application and interview process, rising juniors and seniors are selected and sponsored by their local co-ops to travel to Washington, D.C., for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Together with students from all across the country, the selected Michigan students learn about co-ops, leadership, history and the importance of civic engagement.
“The experience changed me quite a bit,” said Arjun Vorster, a junior at Mendon High School and 2016 Youth Tour participant sponsored by his electric co-op Midwest Energy.
It wasn’t the travel that impressed Vorster, who was born in South Africa and has traveled around the world, including living in seven different countries before moving to the United States.
“Washington, D.C., is a really impressive place,” said Vorster. “You are surrounded by so much history, and you and your fellow students are right in the middle of it all. It’s pretty amazing.”
Vorster, who wants to study environmental engineering in college, noted that having the opportunity to see the historical monuments, visit various museums and interact with the other student participants were some of the most impactful moments of his trip.
“I met so many interesting people,” said Vorster. “I was surrounded by people who wanted to make a difference, and it made me more resolved to make a difference in my own life too.”
Youth Tour can have long-lasting effects on attendees. The impact of leadership training, a unique experience of living history at our nation’s capital, and significant information on the future of electric power, makes quite an impact on the students.
Brad Whitney was a participant at Youth Tour in 2009 and the influence it had on him has been long lasting.
Whitney is currently a lineman at Great Lakes Energy Cooperative. He attended Youth Tour and followed up his trip with a summer job related to line work. Eventually, Brad became the recipient of a GLE scholarship, earning his lineman certification from Alpena Community College and Great Lakes Energy.
“It was a great experience that I’ll never forget,” said Whitney. “I hope this program is available when my kids grow up—I’d want them to go and have an experience as amazing as mine.”
Visit cooperativeyouthtour.com for applications. Applications are due February 28.