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Young people should be at the forefront of global change and innovation.” This advice comes from a former United Nations secretary general, who adds, “Let us ensure that all young people have every opportunity to participate fully in the lives of their societies.”
This belief describes the motivation supporting the annual Government-in-Action Youth Tour, which enables students to visit Washington, D.C., and gain a perspective on our national government. With the co-op-supported trip to the nation’s capital, an immersion into American history becomes a memorable reality for a group of more than 100 Texas students each year.
The long-term benefits are significant. The experience provides a better understanding of the world and helps build each student’s confidence. This purpose and mission, as well as an exploration of history and government, outlines a personal framework on which each student can build individual accomplishment.
“I was a country girl, so the entire experience was very impressive to me,” says Kay Joffrion of Coleman, who made the long bus trip to D.C. with the first Youth Tour in 1965. “President Johnson hosted us in the Rose Garden of the White House, and it was so beautiful, and then we also toured the White House.”
In addition to her memories of the Smithsonian Institution (the Hope Diamond and the first ladies’ gowns made the biggest impressions), the Eternal Flame at President John F. Kennedy’s grave and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Joffrion remembers that the competition to win the trip provided valuable experience.
“Competing in the speaking contest was important to me,” she says. “After that experience, I was always confident speaking to a group of people. That really helped me in my career.” After working in human resources with a health care company in Abilene and a subsequent position with the Texas Department of Transportation’s Brownwood District, Joffrion retired to Coleman, where she serves as mayor.
Carrie Campbell, sponsored by Pedernales EC for the 1985 Youth Tour, remembers, “While all the other members of the tour visited our nation’s Capitol, I walked across the street to the Supreme Court. I was permitted to witness oral arguments. I was in awe. My lasting impression of the Youth Tour is the openness of our government—how ordinary citizens can access justice and impact decision-makers.”
Based on the responses of students taking part in the 2014 Youth Tour, the reviews continue to be enthusiastic after 50 years of the program. The Arlington National Cemetery and the Smithsonian still amaze students. And there are new destinations. Lacey Jesko, from Bailey County Electric Cooperative Association, traveled with the 2014 group and was struck by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which was dedicated in 1993.
“I knew what the Holocaust was about, but I didn’t have a sense of what those people went through and what they experienced,” she says. “Now I feel like I do, and that makes me appreciate this country even more.”
Responses confirm that travel on this mission with other students enables and empowers youths to build a better understanding of their electric co-op community and their country.
And make new friends along the way.
Charles Lohrmann, editor