Local Students Visit Washington, D.C.

Students from Cumberland, Hamilton, McMinn, and Meigs counties spent a week in our nation’s capital last week as delegates of the 2017 Washington Youth Tour. Christa Simmons of Stone Memorial High School, Emma Fisher of Ooltewah High School, Brooklyn Hurst and Hannah Hall of McMinn High School, and Abigail Jones of Meigs County High School joined nearly 140 other students from across Tennessee on the weeklong trip that began on Friday, June 9.

The annual event, sponsored by Volunteer Energy Cooperative and the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, 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 explain how co-ops provide communities with much more than electric power.

“The Youth Tour is an incredible opportunity for these students to experience history up close and personal,” says David Murphy, Vice President Marketing and Economic Development. “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,” said Todd Blocker, vice president of member relations for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and tour director. “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; these students are active members of their community and fully invested in its prosperity.”

While in Washington, D.C., Tennessee’s Youth Tour delegates saw the White House and memorials to past presidents Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt as well as monuments honoring the sacrifices of veterans of World War II and the Vietnam and Korean Wars. During visits to the museums of the Smithsonian Institution, the touring Tennesseans saw and experienced natural, historical and artistic treasures. Other fun stops included historic homes of former presidents — George Washington’s Mount Vernon and Jefferson’s Monticello — as well as Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and a boat cruise down the Potomac River. Among other Youth Tour highlights was a solemn and sobering visit to Arlington National Cemetery where the group laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

The group was welcomed to the U.S. Capitol by Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker and members of the Tennessee congressional delegation who posed for photos and answered questions.

While in D.C., winners were announced in the statewide competition for the Robert McCarty Memorial Scholarships. Destinee Gilchrist from Tennessee Valley Electric Cooperative was awarded the $3,000 first-place scholarship for writing the top-judged short story of the more than 10,000 papers submitted across the state. Taya Lewis from Caney Fork Electric Cooperative earned second-place honors and a $2,000 scholarship, and Hope Newell from Gibson Electric Membership Corporation, third place, received a $1,000 scholarship.

McCarty was an employee of Volunteer Energy Cooperative and longtime chaperone on the annual Youth Tour. McCarty lost a battle with cancer in 2015, and sponsoring cooperatives renamed the scholarships in honor of his love for young people.

Candace Hargrave of Franklin County, a recent graduate of Huntland High School, was awarded a $10,000 Cooperative Youth Ambassador Scholarship. Hargrave was a 2016 delegate for Duck River Electric Membership Corporation on the Washington Youth Tour. In the year following the tour, delegates who remain engaged with their sponsoring cooperatives and complete certain community service requirements are eligible for the scholarship. Hargrave’s name was randomly selected from among the 100 delegates from across the state who completed the requirements.

“It’s more than just a talking point,” said David Callis, CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “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.


Julie Jones | Communications and Public Relations Coordinator | 423-334-7052 | jjones@vec.org