Youth Tour Leaves Lasting Impression
“Truly an experience I will remember for a lifetime.” That’s how Katie Rehak described the 2019 Electric Cooperative Youth Tour.
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) program has been bringing high school students to Washington, DC, for a week in June every year since the late 1950’s.
Nearly 50,000 students have participated in the program, which is intended to strengthen their understanding of American history as well as their role as U.S. citizens by allowing them to meet with state representatives.
Growing up as a member of the Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative (MWEC), Rehak knew about the Youth Tour and remembers seeing information about it in the newsletter. “It sounded like a good way to get out of North Dakota for a while,” she said.
Rehak wrote her application essay on the topic of social media and how it’s used to help the co-op expand in the community.
“I wrote it – it was just one page – and decided to see what happens. I didn’t really think about it. So I was definitely surprised when I was chosen,” she said.
Her father had encouraged her to enter. “So we were both pretty excited,” she said.
Rehak was the sole attendee from the MWEC. “But there were about 20 of us from North Dakota,” she said. “We partnered with another group from Montana. We were all kids from rural areas so we had a lot in common and became friends really quickly.”
Over six jam-packed days, the group visited monuments and historical sites.
“I got to see the White House, that really stuck out for me, and the Capitol building. I never thought I would get to do that, as a kid from North Dakota,” Rehak said.
There were classroom sessions between the tours and excursions. Rehak learned about the nation’s history and met with North Dakota congressmen.
“We also learned about the community outreach the co-op does, and how they integrate themselves into the community,” she said.
Rehak said she always had an awareness of being a member of the co-op growing up. “I would read the newsletters and look through the pictures.”
Banquet West is one of the MWEC events she remembers volunteering at over the years.
“As I got older I had more of an appreciation for what they do,” she said. “After the Youth Tour I had a different mindset of seeing how the co-op benefits our rural communities.”
Now at the University of North Dakota studying Commercial Aviation, Katie is still in touch with friends she made on the Youth Tour three years ago.
“It’s a great program and a great way for rural students to get out and see that part of the country,” she said. “It’s a cool free trip!”
To learn more about the NRECA Youth Tour and how you could win this trip of a lifetime visit: www.mwec.com/youth-tour