Continuing a decades-long tradition


In June, more than 1,800 youth delegates representing electric and telephone cooperatives converged in Washington, D.C. for this year’s Youth Tour. This annual tradition has spanned nearly 60 years and is organized by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA).

Fifty-three young leaders represented Illinois during the trip, sponsored by 24 of the state’s electric and telephone cooperatives. They boarded buses and departed for Washington, D.C. on June 16.

“Youth Tour is a great opportunity that changes students’ lives,” said Brooke Gross, Youth Tour coordinator for Illinois. “After touring our nation’s capital, meeting congressional representatives and learning firsthand how our government works, they return home with valuable knowledge that helps prepare them for the future and friendships that will last a lifetime.”

The students had the opportunity to visit Capitol Hill and met with U.S. Representatives Mike Bost, Nikki Budzinski, Darin LaHood and Mary Miller. They also visited historical and cultural sites including Gettysburg, Arlington National Cemetery, the Supreme Court and the White House, as well as many memorials and museums.

2022 YLC Abigail Meyer and 2023 YLC-Paris Van-Dyke laying the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
2022 YLC Abigail Meyer and 2023 YLC Paris Van-Dyke laying the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

During the trip, Paris Van Dyke, who represented Wabash Communications Co-op, was selected by her peers as the 2023-24 Youth Leadership Council (YLC) representative for the Illinois delegation. The YLC is a year-long appointment, and Van Dyke will represent Illinois at national and state meetings and events in the year ahead.

In addition, the Illinois delegation interacted with other participants across the nation during the NRECA Youth Day event on June 21. After the weeklong tour, the students returned to Illinois on June 23.

Since 1964, the nation’s cooperative electric utilities have sponsored more than 60,000 high school students to visit Washington, D.C., talk one-on-one with their U.S. congressional delegations and learn from energy and grassroots government education sessions.