Fifteen students from Middle Tennessee, including three Wilson County students, recently spent a week in the nation's capital as delegates of the 2017 Washington Youth Tour.
David Shoulder of Watertown High School, Shivani Patel of Lebanon High School and Juan Lopez of Mt. Juliet High School were among almost 150 students from across the Volunteer State who took part in the weeklong trip.
The annual event, sponsored by the Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation (MTEMC) and the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association (TECA), provides young leaders with an opportunity to explore the nation's capital, learn about government and cooperatives and develop their leadership skills. Students were selected for the trip by writing short stories titled "Electric Cooperatives - Going Beyond the Wires" that explained how co-ops provide communities with more than electric power.
"The youth tour is an incredible opportunity for these students to experience history up-close and personal," said MTEMC Community Relations Coordinator Jay Sanders. "Delegates experience a whirlwind of a week, visiting museums, monuments and other landmarks."
"We take great pride in recognizing the best and brightest from across the state," tour director and TECA Vice President of Member Relations Todd Blocker added. "By recognizing their accomplishments through programs like the Washington Youth Tour, we show these leaders of tomorrow that their hometown electric co-op is more than a utility provider."
The group was welcomed to the U.S. Capitol by Sen. Lamar Alexander and Sen. Bob Corker and members of the Tennessee congressional delegation who posed for photos and answered questions.
"It's more than just a talking point," TECA CEO David Callis said. "Electric co-ops genuinely care about the prosperity of the communities we serve. The Washington Youth Tour is a small but important way for us to show these exceptional students that rural Tennessee matters. We want them to be passionate about their communities and prepared to lead when those opportunities come along."
President Lyndon Johnson inspired the Washington Youth Tour in 1957 when he encouraged electric cooperatives to send youngsters to the nation's capital. In the years since, more than 6,000 young Tennesseans have been delegates on the Washington Youth Tour.