For the first time since 2019, the Illinois Electric and Telephone Cooperatives Youth Day returned on March 29, 2023 following a three-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Youth Day has been an institution in Illinois since 1974.

This year, nearly 200 students representing 22 Illinois electric and telephone cooperatives had the opportunity to visit the State Capitol, view state government in action and meet their elected officials.

“Youth Day was designed to introduce young rural leaders to state government,” said Brooke Gross, who coordinates youth programs at the AIEC. “Not only do these students interact with their legislators, but they also learn more about their electric or telephone cooperative’s role in their own community.”

In addition, the students met Abigail Meyer, the 2022-23 Illinois Youth Leadership Council Representative from Tri-County Electric Cooperative and Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs. The attendees visited the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Lincoln Home National Historic Site.

At the end of the day, students were interviewed for the chance to represent their co-op during Youth Tour in Washington, D.C., to be held June 16-23. This year, more than 50 students and seven chaperones will be going on the trip.

For the first time, two of these students will be sponsored by Cooperative Choice Network Credit Union (CCNCU). The organization established the Tootie Holmes Memorial Fund in recognition of the dedication of former longtime Credit Union Division Manager Shewan “Tootie” Holmes, who passed away unexpectedly in 2020 at age 64. Holmes worked for the credit union for 32 years.

Monies from the fund, which will be awarded to children of electric and telephone cooperative employees, will be used to sponsor a student to attend Youth Tour every year in Holmes’ memory.

“I remember talking about the trip with [Holmes] on several occasions and how much she encouraged people to go if given the opportunity. She was a chaperone on the trip … and said it was interesting and worthwhile,” said former co-worker and current CCNCU Division Manager Lisa Widner. “The scholarship fund was created as a way to honor [Holmes’] years of support for the Youth to Washington Tour.”

While the fund is intended to finance the trip for one student annually, two were selected for this year’s Youth Tour. Owen Northern, son of Bridgette Northern with Adams Telephone Co-Operative, and Caroline Guthman, daughter of Brooke Guthman of Egyptian Electric Cooperative Association, will join the other students on the trip.

“I have heard so much about Youth Tour, and I was unsure if I’d ever get the opportunity to go,” Caroline said. “Because of the Tootie Holmes Memorial Fund, I can attend and am looking forward to the opportunity and experience. I’d like to thank those involved in selecting me to attend in her name.”

Follow facebook.com/ILYouthTour for updates on Youth Tour.


SouthEastern Illinois Electric Cooperative’s Ava Basolo and Kaylee Horn and Southern Illinois Electric Cooperative’s Alex Larrison and Trinity Posey meet with Representative Patrick Windhorst (R-117).

Senator Steve McClure (R-54) talks with students Kade Beckmier and Lillian Waghorn from Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative.

Illinois Electric Cooperative brought the largest delegation of students this year to meet with Senator Jil Tracy (R-50).

Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative students give a thumbs up with Representative Chris Miller (R-101).

Xander Vogel and Kyle Haas of Jo-Carroll Energy and Alyssa Beever and Aydin Tariq of Coles-Moultrie Electric Cooperative pose with the Lincoln family at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
Owen Northern, son of Bridgette Northern with Adams Telephone Co-Operative, and Caroline Guthman, daughter of Brooke Guthman of Egyptian Electric Cooperative Association, will join the other students on the trip in honor of Tootie Holmes.