When the risks of COVID-19 caused programs like the Washington Youth Tour and the Cooperative Youth Summit to be canceled in 2020, The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina (ECSC) created The Virtual Youth Experience.
For the past two years, the Virtual Youth Experience has offered a wonderful opportunity for high school students in South Carolina to connect with their peers and hear directly from the people making a difference in the world today, all while remaining safe and healthy.
In June, Mary Bashaw, Ellings Hunter (sponsored by ECSC) and Tyler Peeples (sponsored by ECSC) of May River High School; Clayton Gantt and Jordan Mikell of Thomas Heyward Academy; and Tess Sanford and Danielle Silvan of Hilton Head Island High School were among 74 rising high school juniors and seniors in the state that participated in the Virtual Youth Experience, a week-long, part web-conference, part in-person event sponsored by South Carolina’s electric cooperatives. Using their laptops and smartphones, our local teens discussed issues of the day with leaders like U.S. Representatives James Clyburn and Nancy Mace and U.S. Senators Tim Scott and Lindsay Graham. Sen. Scott emphasized the importance of education in facing our country’s hurdles, calling it “the closest thing to magic in America.”
The students also got screen time with Rev. Charles Jackson of West Columbia’s Brookland Baptist Church and state Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell. To conclude their week, the students gathered in person at Fairfield Electric Cooperative where they heard inspiring messages from South Carolina Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette and Chris Singleton—a former professional baseball player whose mother, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, was one of nine killed in 2015’s Emanuel AME Church shooting.
The students also spent the week in teams learning how to create and produce audio podcasts that complete the sentence: “This is my country…” A group of S.C. journalists will judge the podcasts and award $5,000 scholarships to each student in the winning group. As you may remember, one of Palmetto Electric’s representatives on the 2020 Virtual Youth Experience, Mackenzie Starnes, was a member of the first winning team and a recipient of a $5,000 scholarship. We are proud of the way these future leaders have represented Palmetto Electric Cooperative.
Tess Sanford was awarded the 2021 R.D. Bennett Community Service Scholarship for her project, Jeopardy in Community Centers.
- Mary Bashaw, May River High School
- Clayton Gantt, Thomas Heyward Academy
- Ellings Hunter, May River High School
- Jordan Mikell, Thomas Heyward Academy
- Tyler Peeples, May River High School
- Tess Sanford, Hilton Head Island High School
- Danielle Silvan, Hilton Head Island High School
The future is bright, thanks to future leaders like these!