Over the past 53 years, South Plains Electric Cooperative has sent 242 local students on the trip of a lifetime. That trip is called the Government-in-Action Youth Tour and is held each June in Washington, D.C.
Thirty-one years ago, South Plains Electric Cooperative sent two students, Curtis Franklin and Jamey (Laney) Phillips. They were selected from the annual oratorical contest. Before the trip, Curtis and Jamey did not know each other, but their fathers did and they soon became friends. They both attended Texas Tech University after high school and continued their friendship. After college, Jamey and Curtis went their separate ways, but years later they ended up moving to the same neighborhood, had kids around the same ages and reconnected—a friendship that all began as participants together on the Youth Tour.
Fast forward 31 years, after hearing her father’s stories and receiving encouragement from him, Hannah Franklin, Curtis’ daughter, knew this was something she needed to try out for, and she is glad she did. Hannah applied, completed the interviews and was selected to represent the Cooperative in 2018.
At first thinking this opportunity was too good to be true and not knowing what to expect, Hannah shared how this trip has provided her with so many opportunities and experiences that she never would have had.
While on the Government-in-Action Youth Tour, students meet with their congressmen and tour the U.S. Capitol Building, Library of Congress and Supreme Court. Participants also visit monuments and memorials including the Holocaust Museum, Arlington National Cemetery, the Washington National Cathedral and Mount Vernon.
Each day is packed and every last detail is planned out. While seeing the sights in our nation’s capital, these students get to know each other and form lasting friendships. “Meeting people from all across Texas who I would’ve never met otherwise, and experiencing Washington, D.C. with them was the most memorable thing,” Hannah said. She stays in contact with her new friends and was even able to meet several students who will be attending college with her. She is looking forward to reconnecting with them.
Before cell phones and Facebook, keeping in touch was a bit different. “I still have stacks of letters that we would write each other for many years after the trip,” Curtis said.
Until 2005, participants rode on a bus from Texas to Washington, D.C. That bus ride was a long one, but students stayed entertained by playing games and doing team-building activities. Curtis and Jamey both shared that the bus ride to Washington, D.C. held many memories in itself. “That bus ride is when you really got to know each other,” Jamey said.
Today, the delegation from Texas meets in Austin to tour the Texas Capitol, the Bob Bullock Museum and the Texas State Cemetery before flying to Washington, D.C.
Co-op roots run deep for both the Franklin and Laney-Phillips families. The Franklins have been members for years as Curtis’ grandfather became a Co-op member in 1948, and Jamey’s father, Pete Laney, in addition to being a member, has always been an advocate for electric cooperatives.
Not only does the Youth Tour educate participants on our nation’s rich history, it educates them on the value electric cooperatives play in our communities. “This trip is facilitating great leaders,” Curtis said. “It is a great opportunity for folks to not only go on a wonderful trip, but once they do, it gives them the opportunity to learn about many different things. It is amazing what electric cooperatives do in our local communities.”
The Youth Tour has been dubbed “The Trip of a Lifetime” because of the incredible relationships and memories that are made. “This trip provides opportunities for kids in the area, who might not otherwise have some of these opportunities,” Jamey said. “It provided me with an opportunity that no other program would have provided me.” Still to this day, Jamey works with South Plains Electric Cooperative and other electric cooperatives as an attorney, an interest that began as a participant on the Youth Tour.
Hairstyles and ways of communication may have changed through the years, but one thing remains the same—this truly is the trip of a lifetime.
If you are a high school junior or senior and are interested in learning more about what the Youth Tour has to offer, visit SPEC.coop/youthtour.