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Youth to Washington Tour

Based on the health risks and local, state and national orders, as well as recommendations from the Center for Disease Control, NRECA has cancelled all in person programs through June 24. Unfortunately, this includes Youth Tour.


NRECA is still hoping to proceed with the selection of a YLC representative from each state.

June 5 – Youth Leadership Application and Essay  If you are interested in continuing your leadership training after youth tour, you should apply for the Youth Leadership position! Complete the application and write a short essay (300-500 words) on the subject of “What does leadership mean to you?  What will you contribute to the YLC and how will you help your co-op and community?”  Ashley Graham must receive the application and short essay by June 5.  What happens if you are selected??? You will travel back to D.C. in July, come back to Springfield at the end of July to give a speech at the AIEC Leaders Luncheon during the annual meeting which is well attended by Illinois directors.  And so much more! For additional requirements, the printable application and reasons to apply below.

Youth Tour Pictures


The Youth Leadership Application button below is a link to fill out, by June 5, if you are interested in applying for the Youth Leadership Council.

  • You must have at least one more year of high school left to apply
  • Submit the Youth Leadership Application and send a short essay (300-500 words) — June 5
  • Be able to go back to Washington, DC for a Youth Leadership Conference — July 25-29, 2020
  • Attend the AIEC Annual Meeting in Springfield, IL — July 23, 2020
  • Attend the NRECA Annual Meeting in San Diego, CA — February 20-24, 2021
  • Attend the Illinois Electric and Telephone Cooperatives Youth Day in Springfield, IL — Late March 2021
  • Be sponsored on “Youth to Washington” tour by a cooperative

To be “in the running” for the YLC position, fill out the YLC application and write a short essay (300-500 words) on the subject of “What does leadership mean to you? What will you contribute to the YLC and how will you help your co-op and community.”  This information will need to be emailed to by June 5.  More information is in the blue section below explaining further details of the YLC. Scroll down for more information on the YLC program.

 Youth Leadership Application

Reasons to go From Past Participants 

Youth Tour Pictures Youth Day Pictures

  • “I learned more than I ever thought I would, developed a passion for cooperatives and our country, experienced the United States government, and made life long friends.” -Emma J.
  • “I got to learn about our government and see it in action” -Sarah B.
  • “Youth to Washington is a once in a lifetime experience! I’ve never felt more patriotic or proud of our country than I did during and after that trip!”- Cecily H.
  • “Youth to Washington was a great chance to learn more about our government, see lots of cool monuments, and meet awesome people!” -Marcail C.
  • “I really did enjoy the trip and can confidently say that this trip has really changed me! Thanks for helping me participate via Willie Wiredhand.” -Trevor S.
  • “The opportunity to experience our Nation’s Capitol in person (with a bunch of youth my age!) is a memory I’ll never forget. This trip really gave me a deeper appreciation for our magnificent country.” -Sarah C.
  • “It was an incredible experience, I got to meet so many wonderful friends and mentors and I had an awesome opportunity to network with professionals.” – Joystna B.
  • “I had the opportunity to not only learn about cooperatives and government but I had the opportunity to hang out with 74 complete strangers who ended up being some of the coolest people I’ve ever met.” -Brittany D.
  • “The Youth to Washington tour opened my life up to so many experiences and very many wonderful people.” -Kirsten W.
  • “Being on this trip has impacted my life forever.” -Sophia M.

Youth Leadership Council

During Youth Tour, you can have the chance to be selected to represent your state on the NRECA Youth Leadership Council (YLC). One student from each state is selected and they will come back to Washington, D.C., in July for a leadership workshop which will focus on the electric cooperative industry.

The purpose of the YLC conference is to build leadership and public speaking skills, and to enhance the delegates’ knowledge of the energy industry and the cooperative form of business. These students will also make presentations at their statewide and local cooperative annual meetings.

Each student will prepare a 5-7 minute speech about what inspired them during their Youth Tour trip.  Consult our YouTube channel for examples of prior speeches. Also, the YLC National Spokesperson will be selected to address the membership at the NRECA Annual Meeting and to address the Youth Tour delegates the following year.

Members of the YLC play an important role during NRECA’s Annual Meeting the following spring.  Not only are the YLC members recognized on stage, they have a hands-on experience with virtually every facet of the meeting including the resolutions process and helping our members communicate with their legislators.

Youth Leadership Council members leave more poised, confident and a better developed leader with a strong determination to improve your community and make their country a better place.  Further, they leave having built life-long friendships with other student leaders from across the country.

  • You must have at least one more year of high school left to apply. 
  • Willie participants can not apply for the Youth Leadership Council position.

Youth Leadership Application Youth Tour Alumni Scholarship D.C. Internships

Why You Should Apply to be a YLC

YLC is the best thing to happen to me that I would’ve never guessed would happen. It has opened doors in the most unexpected places, given me contacts all over the nation, friends I will forever treasure, and opportunities I will forever be grateful for. Applying for YLC has changed my life for the better! – Sarah H, YLC 2012-13

Apply for the YLC! It gives you a futher understanding of cooperatives and turns your into a more effective leader. Not to mention, you make great friends along the way! -Sarah L, YLC 2013-2014

There are so many ways to answer that and I still couldn’t say everything I wanted to say, but to put it concisely, for one, I had the time of my life representing our state as the YLC, there were many times where I had to pause and reflect on how perfect the experiences were. But also, in the year I served as Illinois’ YLC I grew as a person a tremendous amount, representing everyone that I bonded with was such an incredibly challenging but thrilling experience. – Wyatt R, YLC 2014-15

How to Apply

Contact your local electric cooperative to find out specific details for participating. You may visit your electric cooperative by clicking here or you can contact Ashley Graham at the AIEC at (217) 241-7916 or

Willie participants can not apply for the Youth Leadership Council position.

Youth Tour Origin

Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson inspired the Youth Tour when he addressed the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) Annual Meeting in Chicago in 1957. The Senator and future president declared, “If one thing goes out of this meeting, it will be sending youngsters to the national capital where they can actually see what the flag stands for and represents.”

Consequently, some Texas electric cooperatives sent groups of young people to Washington to work Senator Johnson’s office during the summer in. In 1958, a rural electric cooperative in Iowa sponsored the first group of 34 young people on a week-long study tour of the nation’s capital. Later that same year, another busload came to Washington from Illinois. The idea grew and other states sent busloads of young people throughout the summer. By 1959, the “Youth Tour” had grown to 130 youths.

In 1964, NRECA began to coordinate joint activities among the state delegations and suggested that co-op representatives from each state arrange to be in Washington, D.C. during Youth Tour week. The first year of the coordinated tour included approximately 400 young people from 12 states. Word of the program has continued to spread and today, more than 1,800 young people and their chaperones’ participate in the Youth Tour every year.

Who We Are

We’re the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives (AIEC) – a Springfield, Illinois based service organization for the electric and telephone cooperatives in the state. We perform a number of functions — which you can learn about as you explore this website.

In regard to the Youth Tour, the AIEC coordinates the daily planning of all events and sites of interest for the tour. The tour travels via two chartered buses. The summer of 2009 was the 50th year we’ve sent youth to D.C.

Why We Do This

The tour is designed to provide an opportunity for outstanding rural young people (like you) to better understand the value of rural electrification. It familiarizes you with the historic and political environment of our nation’s Capital through first-hand looks at monuments, government buildings, and cooperative organizations.

Visits with elected officials will give you a better understanding of federal government, the political process, and democracy in general. But perhaps most significantly, the tour gives us an opportunity to recognize the accomplishments of outstanding young people from rural communities. Bottom line: your electric cooperative feels like educated citizens are better citizens and better citizens are better co-op members. This program helps you help your local electric cooperative.

Sites to be Seen