In June of 2016, 15 students from Oregon received an incredible opportunity by their local co-ops to attend an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. They were part of the over 1700 students in attendance. The week-long trip was packed with non-stop sightseeing and leadership building in addition to the opportunity to participate in our nation’s political process.
The Electric Cooperative Youth Tour has brought high school students to Washington, D.C. every June since the late 1950s. Then Senator Lyndon B. Johnson inspired the Youth Tour when he addressed the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) Annual Meeting in Chicago in 1957. The future president declared, “If one thing comes out of this meeting, it will be sending youngsters to the national capital where they can actually see what the flag stands for and represents.” That summer, Texas electric cooperatives sent groups of young people to Washington to work in Senator Johnson’s office. The following year, a rural electric cooperative in Iowa sponsored the first group of 34 young people on a week-long study tour of our nation’s capital. The idea grew and other states sent busloads of young people throughout the summer. By 1959, the “Youth Tour” had grown to 130 students.
Nearly 50,000 students from rural areas and small towns across America have participated in this program. The effects of this opportunity are lasting on these students. Youth Tour alumni have gone on to be community leaders, CEOs of companies, and to serve in the highest ranks of our government, including the U.S. Senate. Cultivating the next generation by giving them opportunities like the Youth Tour is just one of many ways co-ops enrich rural Oregon.
For more information, contact ORECA or visit NRECA's Youth Tour Website.