NRECA Youth Tour Alums RememberBy Derrill Holly | ECT Staff Writer Published: September 26th, 2013
Electric cooperatives recruiting the next group of NRECA Electric Youth Tour delegates are getting help from past attendees, who are sharing stories about their life-changing experiences.
In a promotional video being shown during NRECA’s regional meetings, former Youth Tour participants from the past four decades discuss their lives before, during and after their visits to the nation’s capital.
“One of the fondest memories I have is having the opportunity as a young high school student to travel to Washington, D.C., for a week as part of the Youth Tour,” said Ray Starling, who made the trip as a 17 year-old in 1973.
Today he is general counsel to the Speaker of the House of Representatives in North Carolina. “I remember standing on the steps of the United States Capitol with my congressman. At that time in my life, it was an impressionable moment,” he recalled. “It made the world more real to me.”
Starling is one of several youth tour alumni featured in the four-minute video. Others include a United Nations Foundation staffer, a network television news producer and executives of electric cooperatives.
“This video is a great way to tell the electric cooperative story,” said Steve Uram, an NRECA senior grassroots advocacy advisor, who also coordinates NRECA’s Youth Tour program. “We’re hoping co-ops will link to it on their social media pages, put it on their websites and use it before school, youth and community groups as a recruiting tool.”
More than 50,000 young people have traveled to Washington since Sen. Lyndon Johnson, D-Texas, first urged electric cooperatives to take on that mission in 1957. NRECA assumed coordination of the annual trips in 1964, and will mark the 50th anniversary of the program next June.
Besides touring the museums and monuments in and around the nation’s capital, participants also meet with members of their state’s congressional delegations.
“The youth tours do a tremendous job of broadening the horizons of these young people,” said former Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., who appears in the video. “It’s absolutely essential for youth to have these kinds of experiences.”
About 1,600 young people from electric co-ops throughout the United States are expected to take part in the NRECA Electric Youth Tour, June 12-20, 2014.