As a teenager, Monica Shamkin Poe loved history, and after she took a trip to Washington, DC, during her junior year of high school, her love deepened into a lifelong passion.
In 1988, Monica won a spot on NRECA’s Youth Leadership Tour, then known as the Government in Action Youth Tour. But the trip never would have happened without her mom.
“She knew I liked to write, so she turned in the application without telling me and then informed me that I had to write an essay,” Monica said. She and a group of Texas high school students from other electric cooperatives shared a two-day bus ride to the nation’s capital and spent a week touring the city.
“It was my first trip to anything outside of rural small-town America,” said Monica, who grew up in Little Elm and graduated from high school in a class of “about 43” students. “To this day, I am extremely appreciative.”
The trip left with her a lasting impression on the inner workings of American politics. Monica’s most memorable moment was watching a debate on the Senate floor. “It was definitely a lesson in cooperation and consideration for the other side,” she said.
And as a museum lover, she was in her element: “I kind of fell in love with how history connects to our present and our past.”
Since 1964, more than 50,000 high school students have visited Washington, DC, for one week every summer as part of the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour. The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) coordinates the tour, and more than 1,500 teens participate every summer.
Monica graduated from the University of North Texas with a degree in design and a minor in structural engineering and has enjoyed a 25-year career as a designer with a convention and events contractor in Dallas. She offices out of her Denison home and keeps her Youth Tour certificate on the wall next to her college diploma.
But what makes her most proud is sharing her love of history with her three children–two of whom have visited Washington, DC, as part of high school tours.
“I’ve been able to pass that on to my children–their need to understand where they come from and to be able to help and move the country–especially in the state it’s in–toward an area that would be beneficial to more people, not just themselves.”