Thursday, August 27, 2015

A spectacular way to teach co-op youth

Each year, Colorado’s electric co-ops sponsor one or more high school seniors-to-be on a weeklong, all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. After the trip, many co-ops ask the kids from their individual co-ops to make a presentation to the folks in attendance at the co-op annual meeting. These presentations are often the highlight of the annual meeting because the kids sometimes have a unique way of describing their D.C. experience. Having seen a lot of these presentations over the years, it always seemed to me like the kids had a great time and that the Youth Tour was a pretty good idea.

I was wrong: The Youth Tour is a spectacular idea! This year, my wife, Deb, and I were two of the four chaperones for the 30 Colorado kids who went on the tour. (Our motto: No Child Left Behind.) We had a chance to experience the Youth Tour in person and can now vouch for the fact that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Colorado’s co-op youth.

This year’s tour began at the headquarters of United Power near Brighton where the kids learned how electricity is transmitted from power plants to their homes. They were also reminded that it’s a dangerous commodity. The United Power lineman who led the safety demonstration explained how he lost an arm as the result of an electrical contact. His story was a powerful reminder that keeping the lights on is not as easy or risk-free as it looks.

After the safety demonstration, we took a bus to the state Capitol and toured the building, including the recently renovated dome. We also paused at the mile high markers on the west steps of the Capitol to talk about the legislative process and how laws are made in Colorado. That evening, we headed out to Tri-State Generation and Transmission for a tour of the operations center followed by a visit with state Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik.

Early the next morning we headed to Denver International Airport for the flight to Washington, D.C. For a few of the kids on the tour, this was their first time on an airplane. As we descended into Reagan National, the kids were straining to look out the windows to see the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol.

I won’t recount every detail of the trip, but we kept the kids busy from sunup to sundown seeing all the memorials, monuments and museums that D.C. has to offer. In the photo above, you can see the group at the memorial to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The kids are pointing to an engraved depiction of rural power lines, a tribute to Roosevelt’s creation of the Rural Electrification Administration. We spent a few minutes at the memorial talking about the co-op program and how it brought power to rural America.

One of the highlights of the tour was our trip to the U.S. Capitol and our meetings with members of Colorado’s congressional delegation. We met with Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner as well as Reps. Scott Tipton and Ken Buck. The kids asked a lot of questions of their elected representatives and we are grateful to both the senators and congressmen for taking the time to meet with us. We clearly had some budding politicians in the group.

For me, the highlight of the 2015 Youth Tour was the U.S. Marine Corps Sunset Parade at the Iwo Jima Memorial. The parade includes a performance by the Marine Drum and Bugle Corps as well as the Silent Drill Platoon. The combination of the drum and bugle corps playing “America the Beautiful” along with the precision moves of the riflemen was enough to put a lump in the throat of all those in attendance.

Finally, a story about the Youth Tour would not be complete without a big thank you to all of the co-ops that sponsor the kids, to fellow chaperone Darryl Edwards of Mountain View Electric and to our Youth Tour director, Liz Fiddes. Liz has led the Colorado portion of the tour for nearly 20 years and she deserves all the credit for another successful trip in 2015.

As I discovered, the Youth Tour is truly an amazing program where young folks are reminded of the sacrifices made by others to ensure their freedoms, and where friends are made, hearts are touched and minds are opened.
Copyright 2011 by Colorado Rural Electric Association