National Rural Electric Cooperative Youth Tour

GRACEVILLE – Sofia Coley of Blountstown and Korbin Haller of Graceville were among nearly 1,700 high school students from 43 states who participated in the National Rural Electric Cooperative Youth Tour held June 10-15, 2017, in Washington, D.C. Coley and Haller were sponsored by West Florida Electric Cooperative (WFEC) and represented Blountstown High School (Coley) and Graceville High School (Haller). Drew Willis, Blountstown High School, also participated in the trip as a representative of the Florida Rural Electric Cooperatives Association. Willis is the grandson of WFEC Trustee, Ellis Nichols, and he competed in a separate essay competition held solely for the children and grandchildren of WFEC employees and board members. The winner of this essay competition is selected as the Youth Tour representative for the Florida Rural Electric Cooperatives Association.

WFEC Youth Tour representatives (l-r) Korbin Haller, Graceville High School; Sofia Coley & Drew Willis, both of Blountstown High School pose for a photo while exploring Mt. Vernon.

While in Washington, the students learned first-hand what it is like to be involved in politics, how our government operates and about how and why electric co-ops were formed. One highlight of the trip included meeting their elected representatives in the U.S. House and Senate. They toured Arlington National Cemetery, the Capitol, and Mount Vernon. Students also visited various monuments and memorials including the Viet Nam, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt and more.

Thirty-two students represented Florida during the National Rural Electric Youth Tour. One of the stops made on their tour was the Capitol, where they had the opportunity to meet with Congressman Neal Dunn (left center) and Congressman Matt Gaetz (right center).

While in D.C., they also enjoyed the U.S. Marine Corps Band Sunset Parade; and a boat cruise and a dance on the Potomac River. Students also had the opportunity to visit the new National Museum of African American History and Culture, D.C.’s newest museum.

In 1964, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) began coordinating joint activities among state delegations and suggested that co-op representatives from each state arrange to be in Washington, D.C. during Youth Tour week. The first year of the coordinated tour included about 400 teens from 12 states.

As word spread, the program grew – and grew and grew to what it is today. WFEC has participated in the Youth Tour program since 1979, sending two students to our nation’s capitol each year since.

The Youth Tour program is open to all high school juniors whose parents or guardians are members of West Florida Electric Cooperative. Each high school within WFEC’s service area selects a representative for the State Youth Tour in the fall of each year. The selected representatives then go on to compete for the two slots available for the National Youth Tour. The Youth Tour program is also a scholarship opportunity for area students.  One $4,000 scholarship to Chipola College is awarded to a participant from each county served by WFEC. If you will be a junior during the 2017-2018 school year, see your school’s guidance counselor for more information about the Youth Tour or contact WFEC Youth Tour Coordinator, Candace Croft at ccroft@westflorida.coop.