For some, it takes getting struck by lightning to understand the impact of electricity. Thankfully, I didn’t have to resort to using kites and keys.

Prior, my only experience with Tri-County Electric (TCEC), my cooperative, was at the mailbox, usually in the form of a bill. But now I see TCEC’s logo in an entirely different light.

In January 2022, I decided to take a chance and “fly a kite.” I applied for Youth Tour, a trip to D.C. entirely sponsored by electric and telephone cooperatives. My kite got struck by lightning, and TCEC chose me to go.

I thought the best part of the trip would be all the sights of beautiful Washington, D.C., but it turned out to be the people I traveled with. Despite never having met each other, we became incredibly close. It taught me that when a group of people have the same goals, it’s easy to get along and can be so much fun.

I also learned I’m a much more capable leader and speaker than I initially believed. I once again decided to “fly a kite” and gave an impromptu leadership speech. I walked out of that room having given a speech that I was truly proud of and with more confidence than I’d walked in with.

The outcome of this speech also awarded me a position I never expected to receive. I was named the new Youth Leadership Council (YLC) representative for the state of Illinois and given another opportunity to travel, this time to a national conference with 30 other youth delegates to act as ambassadors in Nashville for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s annual conference. There, I created more valuable relationships that I never would have if I hadn’t “flown a kite.”

These trips were incredible adventures. There are more people than you can ever imagine who are more than happy and willing to help and work with you. The best parts were the relationships I built. That’s one of the best things I could’ve asked for.

My experience on Youth Tour and participating as a YLC were kite and key moments for me. I want to encourage everyone to grab a kite, take a chance and try something new. Tie a key to the end of that kite and fly it, even if it’s stormy out, figuratively. Let’s make more kite and key moments.