A Trip of a Lifetime
Two Wasco County students fly east for the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour
By Andrew Cutler
Thomas Scott had never been on an airplane. The sophomore-to-be at Dufur High School had also never been farther east than Wyoming. But when Thomas was told he, along with Linnae Roeder, would be Wasco Electric Cooperative’s delegates to the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour to Washington, D.C., in June, he knew that was all about to change.
“It was easily the farthest I’ve ever been from home,” Thomas says. “And it was pretty exciting to see how planes work.”
For Linnae, the trip represented a once-in-a lifetime opportunity for the junior-to-be at South Wasco County High School.
“The girls who went the year before on the D.C. Youth Tour, they do 4-H with me at the Wasco County Fair,” Linnae says. “I talked to them about what to expect. They said they learned so much from it. They loved going, and if they had another chance to go on the tour again, they would definitely do it.”
The seven-day tour coordinated by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association provides an action-filled week for high school students, offering them opportunities to learn firsthand what it is like to be involved in politics, leadership positions, community service and today’s pressing issues.
Both Thomas and Linnae say the trip was an opportunity to learn about the history of cooperatives.
“We had a meeting with a lot of other kids from other states, and we were all in this big, huge hall,” Thomas says. “They had a PowerPoint presentation about the history of cooperatives. It was pretty educational. I didn’t know that much before.”
Linnae says learning about cooperatives was overwhelming.
“I learned that a lot of the cooperatives serve a lot bigger area than the ones you see out here in the rural area,” she says.
Highlights of the week included the delegates visiting with representatives from their congressional districts. They toured famous monuments, the Smithsonian Institution’s museums and Arlington National Cemetery.
“I think the thing that was really fun, and that I think all of us enjoyed, was our NRECA farewell event on Wednesday night,” Linnae says. “That was so fun because we got to get together with all of the 44 states that had applicants going. We got to meet up with them and exchange pins and buttons, and just have a blast talking about how their cooperatives and their rural areas are different than ours here in Oregon.”
Other events during the week included participation in the Electric Youth Day. A special program coordinated by NRECA brought together nearly 2,000 Youth Tour delegates from across the United States. The delegates enjoyed speeches by government leaders and motivational speakers, including Mike Schlappi, a four-time Paralympic medalist and two-time world wheelchair basketball champion.
Thomas says he would recommend the trip to any student.
“I would say that they definitely should explore going,” he says. “It’s a great experience to have.”
Linnae says the trip offers someone a chance to take a closer look at what working for a cooperative might be like.
“I would just tell them that they’d have a blast and that they would learn so much,” she says. “And if they were interested in going into the trade—like being a lineman or an engineer—they would benefit a lot from seeing how the power industry can change from one state to another.”