The Government-In-Action Youth Tour (Youth Tour) was born of extemporaneous comments made by Senator Lyndon Johnson as he addressed the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (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, D.C., to work during the summer in Senator Johnson's office, to learn about government-in-action.
The next year rural electric people in Iowa sponsored the first group of 34 young people on a weeklong study tour of the nation's capital, as direct outgrowth of the Senator's personal suggestion at the Chicago meeting. Later that same year, another busload came to Washington, D.C. 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. During 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, and for the last few years almost 1,500 young people and chaperones have participated in the Youth Tour each year. New Mexico Electric Cooperatives began similar coordination in 1997.
The objectives and purposes of the Youth Tour are to educate youth 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, and to provide an opportunity for youth to meet elected officials to better understand how their federal government works.
Sierra Electric Cooperative, Inc. has been participating in the Youth Tour since 2005. Each year, we hold an essay contest to select winners to receive the all-expenses paid trip to Washington, DC. Sierra Electric works with the New Mexico Rural Electric Cooperative Association, who in turn works with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association to complete the coordination of the trip.
As participants in the Youth Tour, local contest winners will travel first to Santa Fe, then on to Washington, D.C., where they will spend six days visiting places of historical interest, members of Congress, and participating in rural electrification education seminars. The group will tour the Smithsonian Institution, Ford’s Theatre, Washington National Cathedral and Mount Vernon.
A highlight of the Washington trip is the Rural Electric Youth Day, during which a special program coordinated by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association will feature speeches by high government and rural electric officials.
Contest winners will be eligible to compete to represent their state on National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s Youth Leadership Council (YLC). Members of the YLC will attend NRECA’s annual meeting and participate in a variety of other activities throughout the year.
For information on contest eligibility, application, deadlines and trip details, contact Member Services at the Co-op.