Student representatives from Michigan co-ops joined approximately 1,700 students from across the country at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Youth Tour to Washington, D.C. (June 13-18). Michigan was represented by 18 students from eight electric co-ops, including Cherryland, Cloverland, Great Lakes, HomeWorks, Midwest, Presque Isle, Thumb and Wolverine.

While in Washington, the Michigan students traveled with a local tour guide who provided valuable history and depth to the many monuments and memorials visited, including Arlington National Cemetery, Vietnam, WWII and Korean War memorials, and the Lincoln Memorial. Students also explored museums in small groups, including the Newseum, American History, Natural History, and Air & Space museums, and the National Portrait Gallery. Watching an evening performance of the murder-mystery comedy “Shear Madness” at the Kennedy Center was also part of the fun.

On “Capitol Hill Day,” the students met with Sen. Debbie Stabenow, and Reps. Dan Benishek, Bill Huizenga and John Moolenaar. Students also experienced their democracy in action as they witnessed discussion on the Senate floor and observed a House Science, Space and Tech Committee hearing on “The Science and Ethics of Genetically-Engineered Human DNA” as guests of committee vice chair Rep. John Moolenaar.

Prior to these visits, students participated in a briefing with NRECA legislative team member Brian Cavey, and met with Hayley Alexander, a former Youth Tour student from Mississippi that has worked for Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, and now the United States Senate Committee on Appropriations. Hayley talked to the students about internship opportunities and the experience of “transitioning” from her rural community to life in D.C.

Student feedback was very positive, noting that Youth Tour is a “once-in-a-lifetime experience” that introduced them to a whole new world and made them really think about their futures. Students are often surprised that the connections they make on Youth Tour are as valuable as the things they see and do, with several saying that “the relationships I made are life-changing” and “I’ll have the friends I made for life.”

MECA thanks Laurie Millen (Wolverine) for assisting MECA staff as a 2015 tour manager.