It was quite a summer for two local high school students, thanks to Palmetto Electric Cooperative. Garrett Simons and Cohen Freeman took part in the Cooperative Youth Summit, a four-day journey of their state’s capital and the surrounding area that went beyond the traditional field trip.
Simons and Freeman joined 35 other high school students sponsored by South Carolina electric cooperatives on the unique experience. Through the Cooperative Youth Summit, students start their own cooperative, produce their own podcasts and learn how government works. The students visited Riverbanks Zoo & Garden, explored electric vehicles and toured the State House, culminating with a visit inside the Governor’s office. The students also learned about legislative advocacy from S.C. state Rep. Kirkman Finlay.
“I thought Rep. Finlay was really cool because he was straightforward,” says Simons. “He was willing to answer questions and there wasn’t anything he was trying to hide.”
On the final day, the students heard from Hannah Honeycutt of the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission. Honeycutt told the students that many citizens, especially in rural communities, are not able to effectively use the legal system to advocate for themselves and their interests.
Cooperative Youth Summit students also had the unique opportunity to produce podcasts addressing the question, “Given the turbulence in our nation and around the globe, how can young people impact their local communities?”
Throughout the trip, the students participated in the Soda Pop Co-op, which sold snacks and beverages. Some students served as cooperative board members; others were a part of the management team. All students received cashback as their share of the end-of-the-trip margins. The exercise allowed the students to learn first-hand how the not-for-profit co-op business model works.