The Trip of a Lifetime: The Rural Electric Youth Tour!
WHAT IS THE RURAL ELECTRIC YOUTH TOUR?
What is the Rural Electric Youth Tour? In a word, it is truly the trip of a lifetime! Each summer during the month of June, Petit Jean Electric Cooperative joins all the Arkansas cooperatives, not to mention cooperatives from 37 other states, in sending approximately 1,400 high school juniors on an expense-paid trip to the nation's capitol, Washington D.C. Since rural electric cooperatives are resolutely committed to local education and leadership development, the purpose of the trip is to provide proven learners and students a unique opportunity to learn about electric cooperatives, American history, and U.S. government. During the tour, students attend educational seminars and visit with their representatives in the House and Senate. Moreover, they see historical sights in and around Washington D.C. - Arlington Cemetery, the monuments, the U.S. Capital, the Smithsonian, Mt. Vernon, and many other historic places - and, perhaps most importantly, they learn about cooperation.
Let there be no doubt that Petit Jean Electric is heartily committed to doing its part in partnering with our community toward the investment in and development of our children and youth, and thus ultimately the perpetual success of our community. The Youth Tour experience typifies and expresses the sentiments of Petit Jean Electric Cooperative and its commitment to our community in a tangible and concrete way. Each year we sponsor and support two juniors from our service area in this once in a lifetime learning experience. The two high school juniors chosen to represent Petit Jean Electric on the Tour are chosen through an essay writing contest, an interview evaluation, and an independent panel of three judges. During the final stage of three independent judges, all essays are examined anonymously. Interview evaluations are used to break any ties in essay scoring.
Here is how it works. Working in conjunction with local high school officials (Superintendents, Guidance Counselors, etc.) and teachers (English teachers, Speech teachers, Civics teachers, History teachers, etc.), beginning in early March, high school juniors are first asked to write an essay on an assigned cooperative topic for the year. The essayists are given three to four weeks to research and compose their essays, usually due by the first week in April. Those essayists selected by their teachers for the best essays are then interviewed. The best essays chosen by the teachers of the various schools within Petit Jean's service area are then judged by an independent panel of three judges. The independent judges have no clue as to the identification of the essayists and must use the score sheet provided by Petit Jean. The students writing the top two essays in Petit Jean Electric's service area are the winners of the contest.
THE HISTORY OF THE RURAL ELECTRIC YOUTH TOUR
The Rural Electric Youth Tour was born of extemporaneous comments made by Senator Lyndon Johnson as he addressed the NRECA Annual Meeting in Chicago in 1957. Beginning that year, and for several more, some of the Texas electric cooperatives sent groups of young people to Washington to work during the summer in Senator Johnson's office, to learn about government in action.
The next year, 1958, rural electric people in Iowa sponsored the first group of 34 young people on a week-long study tour of the nation's capital, as a direct outgrowth of the Senator's personal suggestion at the Chicago meeting. Later that same year, another busload came to Washington from Illinois. Other states picked up the idea in increasing numbers each succeeding year, sending busloads of young people through the summer. In 1959, the number had grown to 130 youths as the importance of the idea began to be better recognized.
In 1964, NRECA began to coordinate the program suggesting that the groups arrange their schedules to be in the city the same week. The first year of the coordinated tour there were about 400 young people from 12 states. Since that time the Youth Tour has continued to grow over the next 24 years to almost 1,000 young people and chaperones participating in the Tour each year. On the 25th anniversary of the Youth Tour the number of participants exceeded 1,000. Because of the increased size in 1990, the Youth Tour split into back-to-back sessions of approximately 650 per session.
YOUTH TOUR OBJECTIVES AND PURPOSE
- To educate youths on all aspects of rural electrification in order to promote a better understanding of the value of rural electric cooperatives.
- To provide an opportunity for youth to visit monuments, government buildings and cooperative-related organizations in order to become familiar with the historical and political environment of their nation's capital.
- To provide an opportunity for youth to meet elected officials in order to better understand how their federal government works.