Every year the electric cooperatives afford young people an opportunity to experience Washington, DC, in a way they've never experienced it before. Students on the tour learn about their sponsoring electric cooperative, American history and U.S. government. Also it is a chance to meet other teens from across the U.S. who share many common interests.
This opportunity is the Rural Electric Youth Tour. Yearly, more than 1,400 young people and their chaperones from all across the country converge on Washington, DC, in June. The tour is sponsored by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), statewide associations and local electric cooperatives.
The Youth Tour got its start back in 1957 when then-Senator Lyndon Johnson told the NRECA Annual Meeting participants, "If one thing comes out of this meeting ..."he hoped it would be "... sending those youngsters to the nation's capital where they can actually see what the flag stands for and represents." So beginning in 1957 and continuing for several more years, some of the Texas electric cooperatives sent groups of young people to work during the summer in Senator Johnson’s office to learn more about government in action. Other states started to follow this idea and bring youths to Washington. By 1959, the number of youths coming to Washington had grown to 130. The importance of the idea of sending these young people to Washington had gained recognition.
In 1964, NRECA began to coordinate the program, suggesting that electric cooperatives arrange their schedule so they would all be in Washington, DC, the same week. This helped with program arrangements and afforded the young people an opportunity to meet and share experiences with groups from the other states. The first year of the coordinated tour there were about 400 young people from 12 states. Since that time the program has continued to grow, and for over 40 years over 1,400 young people and chaperones from more than 43 states have participated in the tour each year. The youths have an opportunity to see their government in action. They visit with their representatives in the House and Senate, tour Washington, DC landmarks, and enjoy planned social events, including a dinner/dance, a dance cruise on the Potomac River, a dinner at a special Washington, DC restaurant, and a play at one of Washington's many theaters. They also attend educational seminars.
The tour not only shows the young people their government in action, but shows how their electric cooperatives are involved in their communities and in the workings of their government. This is not your typical trip to Washington. The program is a learning experience for the youth. It is also a fun experience. Friendships are made that stay with these youths for life.
The program objective is for these young people to carry home a better understanding of their government and the importance of becoming involved in government. Also, it allows them to understand the important role that their electric cooperatives play in their communities and to their families.
The participating electric cooperatives select the youths each year using stringent criteria. All expenses are paid by the sponsoring cooperatives. The tour is coordinated for the cooperatives listed in this directory by the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives.