Clay student represents Tri-County in Washington

CAPITAL YOUTH TOUR-Middle Tennessee area teens visited the nation’s capital after winning a writing contest sponsored by the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Pictured (left to right) are  James Franklin, Clay County teacher; Mayson Burgener; Clay County High student Savanna Strode; Mary Madison Lyons; Whitney Vibbert; and Tracy Gregory, Marketing Assistant, all representing Tri-County Electric. (photo by Robin Conover, TEAC)

CAPITAL YOUTH TOUR-Middle Tennessee area teens visited the nation’s capital after winning a writing contest sponsored by the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Pictured (left to right) are James Franklin, Clay County teacher; Mayson Burgener; Clay County High student Savanna Strode; Mary Madison Lyons; Whitney Vibbert; and Tracy Gregory, Marketing Assistant, all representing Tri-County Electric. (photo by Robin Conover, TEAC)

WASHINGTON, D.C.-Clay County High School student Savanna Strode, representing Tri-County Electric, was among the more than 140 high school juniors from across Tennessee who experienced an in-depth look at our nation’s capital during the 2013 Rural Electric Youth Tour.

In addition to Strode, Mayson Burgener, Red Boiling Springs High School; Mary Madison Lyons, Monroe County High School; and Whitney Vibbert, Cumberland County High School 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, member-controlled electric cooperatives provide valuable community-building support in addition to reliable and affordable electric service. James Franklin, Clay County High School was also awarded a spot on the trip to recognize his invaluable support of the co-op’s youth programs.

“Washington is an incredible place. I had the opportunity to meet my representatives and senators and see some absolutely remarkable things,” said Whitney Vibbert from Cumberland County High School, “I appreciate Tri-County Electric for the opportunity to be a part of youth tour.”

The Washington Youth Tour is a joint effort of Tri-County Electric, the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Each school year, Tri-County Electric sponsors 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 Rep. Diane Black, other elected officials, visits to Washington’s popular tourist stops and time to visit with winners representing other co-ops across the state.

“The Youth Tour is one of the most rewarding things I do all year,” said Tracy Gregory, Marketing Assistant, who served as a chaperone. “These students not only learn about our nation and their electric cooperative, 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 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. And 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. Diane Black also spent some time with her 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 Sen. David Landis, who told, in character, the story of the late U.S. Sen. George W. Norris of Neb., 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 can’t stand up doesn’t mean you can’t stand out.”

“We are owned by our members, and it is so important that our members understand how that makes us different,” said Paul Thompson. “Our communities and our co-ops need strong leadership, and the Washington Youth Tour is one way we can help prepare students for the roles they may one day fill. The tour and similar educational opportunities made possible by Tri-County Electric are designed to help students understand what it takes to be a leader in their communities and why leadership is so important.”