This June, five local high school students will embark on a journey to Austin and Washington, D.C., for the trip of a lifetime—courtesy of MidSouth Electric Cooperative. Oh, and did we mention it’s free?
As part of our continued commitment to community, MidSouth EC sponsors students on the annual Government-in-Action Youth Tour, an all-expenses-paid trip to our nation’s capital. Eligible high school juniors and seniors from the co-op’s service territory are encouraged to submit applications for this year’s trip, June 11–19. The deadline to apply is February 1.
The action-packed tour takes more than 150 students from Texas to Washington, D.C., where they visit historical landmarks like Arlington National Cemetery, Mount Vernon and the Smithsonian Institution museums, among many other sites. Students will also take in a performance at the Kennedy Center, learn about cooperatives and rural electrification, go on a river cruise and meet elected officials.
McKenna Pavelock, a 2019 Youth Tour participant and graduate of Anderson-Shiro High School, says the Government-in-Action Youth Tour continues to influence her life. “This trip is one of the most impactful things I have done so far,” she says.
Pavelock, now working toward her Bachelor of Science in agricultural communications at Texas Tech University, returned to Washington last summer for an internship with Rep. Ronny Jackson, who represents Texas’ 13th Congressional District. She says Youth Tour impacted her decision to compete for the internship and return to the capital. The summerlong opportunity allowed her to explore more of the historic city and try her hand at many different roles in the congressman’s office.
Before flying to Washington, Texas Youth Tour participants gather in Austin for two days to visit the state Capitol, state cemetery and Bullock Texas State History Museum and to meet the other teens from across Co-op Country with whom they’ll spend the coming whirlwind week.
The fun continues when the Texas delegation joins the other states represented at Youth Tour in Washington. To encourage camaraderie, students are given state pins to trade during the trip.
Pavelock says the state pins are a fun way to encourage the groups to mingle in a friendly competition. She laughed as she recounted how heavy her lanyard was at the end of the trip, weighed down by the pins from her new friends.
“Trading the state pins was a lot of fun,” she says. “It was a way to reach out to other states and meet new people.”
Additional opportunities for this year’s students to make friends from across the U.S. include a dinner cruise—a highlight of Pavelock’s trip. Dressed in their Sunday best, the Youth Tour teens dance the night away as the boat floats down the Potomac River.
With bags packed with souvenirs to remember the life-changing opportunity, Pavelock also brought home something more important.
“The friendships I made and the memories that I have are probably some of the best things that came out of [Youth Tour],” Pavelock says. “If it wasn’t for Youth Tour, I wouldn’t have some of my very best friends. When I went on the trip, I wasn’t expecting these friendships, but I am so glad and thankful I went.”
In addition to the trip, MidSouth EC also rewards its Youth Tour attendees with a $1,000 scholarship to help fund their education at a four-year university, college, trade or technical school. Recipients are recognized along with additional scholarship awardees at the cooperative’s annual meeting in June.
As part of the application, students are required to create and share a short video sharing how their day-to-day life would be different without electricity. Applicants can be as creative as they like with their submissions. Pavelock recommends getting an early start on the Youth Tour application and not letting the video portion keep you from applying. The application can take some time to complete, especially if you get nervous in front of a camera.
“Find someone you trust to film it for you,” Pavelock says. “It’s not as awkward once you get started.”
2023 will be MidSouth EC’s first Youth Tour since the pandemic affected travel in 2020. Restrictions placed by Washington hotels and airlines to slow the spread of COVID-19 limited the cooperative’s ability to safely participate.
In less than six short months, five local teens will represent the Mid-South EC community on a national level.
Pavelock offers one final piece of advice to students awarded the free trip: “Pack very comfortable shoes. You do a lot of walking.”
Applications for the 2023 Youth Tour are open now. To learn more about the Youth Tour experience, visit midsouthelectric.com/youth-tour.