Youth to Washington Tour

June 17-24, 2022

About Youth Tour- The Electric Cooperative Youth Tour has brought high school students to Washington, D.C. for a week in June every year since the late 1950s. Students apply and are selected for this program by their local electric cooperative. We believe that students should see their nation’s capital up close, learn about the political process and interact with their elected officials.

Students gain a personal understanding of American history and their role as a citizen by meeting their Representative and Senators. While student groups are organized at the state level, they all come together for Youth Day, where they get to meet each other and hear featured speakers who provide insight to the important roles electric cooperatives play in their communities.

Nearly 50,000 students from rural areas and small towns across America have participated in this program. Some of our Youth Tour alumni have gone on to design airplanes, to lead companies and to serve in the highest ranks of our government, including the U.S. Senate. Don’t be surprised if you run into a former Youth Tour participant who is a congressional aide on Capitol Hill. While several of our alumni work in Washington, you will find even more alumni in your own community.

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 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.

 

Youth Tour Pictures

 

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.

Reasons to go From Past Participants 

  • “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.

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 agraham@aiec.coop.