Creating the best of friends and future leaders

YouthTour_2016_342Seven days is all it takes for a group of 64 rural Illinois high schoolers to become best friends. It is because when you get a group of students with the same ­common ­interest, it is easy for them to relate; they all value ­education and leadership opportunity.

The Youth to Washington Tour is an event sponsored by the electric and telephone cooperatives. This year 1,691 ­students across the United States were in ­attendance, and since the late 1950s, it has been a life-changing event for 50,000 young adults. A very unique part of Youth Tour is Youth Day in Washington, D.C. During Youth Day all 1,691 ­students from 44 states meet in an assembly where they learn about cooperatives and leadership. The day is full of high spirits and new ­experiences as the ­students get to meet with students from all over the United States.

The Illinois Youth Tour delegation was also able to visit Gettysburg, the Washington National Cathedral, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Arlington Cemetery, the Newseum, several Smithsonian Museums, the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, Ford’s Theater, and over nine ­different memorials. Each of these places is rich in ­history and carves a story into the developing minds of these young adults. It teaches them patriotism, American history and respect for the foundation of their country.

Another great learning ­experience was meeting with U.S. Senator Durbin and U.S. Representatives Mike Bost, Cheri Bustos, Danny Davis, Rodney Davis, Adam Kinzinger, Darin LaHood and John Shimkus. The students asked lots of questions and got to know these elected ­leaders. For some students, this experience plants the seeds of ­interest in politics and learning the struggles and rewards of ­running our country.

On the Youth to Washington Tour, Sophia Marcolla from Adams Electric Cooperative was selected by her peers to serve on the National Rural Electric Cooperative Youth Leadership Council. The Youth Leadership Council is a year-long appointment. Sophia will ­represent Adams Electric and the state’s ­cooperatives at national and state meetings and events in the year ahead.

The Youth to Washington ­attendees always come home with a ­better understanding of cooperatives, ­politics, ­history and leadership, and many new lifelong friends. For more information on the tour contact your local electric ­cooperative or go to or