Washington Youth Tour 2023
It would be easy to assume Washington Youth Tour was just another school field trip, full of museum stops and memorial visits around the nation’s capital. However, this six-day, all-expenses-paid experience is much more than a packed agenda of statues, steps and history lessons. It is an opportunity to open new doors and offer new perspectives to the next generation of leaders in our community.
For certain, the student delegates that Palmetto Electric sponsored—Garrett Simons and Bryan Ruiz of Hilton Head Island High School and Olivia Besecker of May River High School—toured a lot of historical and educational sites. They saw the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives, the bullet that killed Abraham Lincoln at the National Museum of Health and Medicine and the changing of the guards at Arlington National Cemetery. They were moved to solemn reverence and reflection at the National Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial.
But those passive experiences were balanced by an active participation in much of what Washington has to offer. When visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, all of the 59 students sponsored by South Carolina’s electric cooperatives, were provided names of soldiers from their hometowns to etch off the wall. When they went to the U.S. Capitol Building, they visited Rep. Nancy Mace’s office, spoke with members of her staff and even climbed out of her office window for a view from the roof of the Longworth House Office Building. Later in the day, they engaged in question-and-answer sessions with members of Sen. Lindsey Graham’s staff and Rep. Ralph Norman on the Capitol steps. Each day, the students ran into other youth tourists from other parts of the country, exchanged state pins and danced with them on a boat cruise along the Potomac River.
Even when the day’s tour agenda was finished and they were back at the hotel, there was still the opportunity to learn about how a cooperative operates. Everyone with the South Carolina delegation, students and chaperones, purchased snacks and drinks from the student-run Soda Pop Co-op. One of those students running Soda Pop Co-op was our own Garrett Simons, who was selected to its board of directors and helped with sales. As members of Soda Pop Co-op, Simons, Ruiz and Besecker each received $7 in capital credits, their share of the co-op’s end-of-trip margins.
Palmetto Electric is proud to support this once-in-a-lifetime experience for local students each year. It expands their perspectives, develops good citizenship and creates connections that could last a lifetime. For our community, it is an investment in the future that benefits all of us.
Cooperative Youth Summit 202
Alex Rozier loves her small, rural town of Nixville. She just wants to see what is outside of it.
The junior at Wade Hampton High School got to do just that as one of four local student delegates to the Cooperative Youth Summit. Palmetto Electric sponsored Rozier, Bella Johnson of Hilton Head Prep, and Colin Owen of Heritage Academy. Jack Keller of Hilton Head Island High School was sponsored by The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina.
“There is so much here (in Columbia) that I’ve never seen,” says Rozier. “I want to meet people of different backgrounds and I’ve definitely been able to do that throughout the week.”
The four students were among 45 delegates who toured the State House, met Gov. Henry McMaster, and learned about their state government and cooperatives. Cooperative Youth Summit students also learned about political advocacy and civic duty from two state legislators—Rep. Micah Caskey and Rep. Russell Ott.
Rozier and the other student delegates also participated in a mock healthcare legislation exercise. With three different proposals, each side tried to sway votes toward a two-thirds majority vote to pass the faux legislation. Cooperative Youth Summit students also teamed up to produce their own podcasts, interviewing legislators and leaders in their community on what makes South Carolina a great place to live and ways it can improve.
“I’m working at being a team player,” Rozier says. “I want to see why people think the way they do. If we want to make a difference in our communities, this was a really good experience.”
The students traveled to Newberry Electric Cooperative, a visit highlighted by a lift in one of the NEC’s boom truck buckets, which are typically used in maintenance and restoration work on utility poles. They also saw the cooperative’s community solar farm and learned about how the cooperative has made high-speed broadband available to its entire membership.
Student delegates also participated in the Soda Pop Co-op, which sold snacks and beverages. Some students served as the cooperative’s board members. Others were a part of the management team. All students received cash back 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.
The future is bright, thanks to future leaders like these!