OEC Crowns 2018 Youth Tour Winners

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OEC awarded all-expenses-paid trips to eight extremely talented high school juniors during the 2018 Youth Tour Banquet held March 5. The top four finishers, Audrey Bradford from Amber-Pocasset High School, Jasmine Williams and Josie McFarland from Newcastle High School, and Lauren Berry from Westmoore High School, won a seven-day trip to Washington, D.C. on Oklahoma's Youth Tour. The other four finalists, Amaya Hamilton from Westmoore High School, Case Harding from Community Christian School in Norman, Gabriel Campbell from Little Axe High School, and Kaleb Cosgrave from Tuttle High School, won trips to Camp RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Awards). Both trips will occur this summer.

"I am so proud of all eight finalists," said Tory Tedder-Loffland, OEC's education and outreach coordinator. "They rose to the occasion and really impressed us and the judges with their presentations at the banquet."

For the third year in a row, applicants of the Youth Tour contest submitted multimedia presentations along with abstracts and resumes. The eight finalists advanced to the final round after their entries were scored and selected from a large pool of applicants. The banquet's competition featured the finalists’ presentations and brief question-and-answer sessions from the judges, followed by the presentation of Youth Tour or Camp RYLA trips to each finalist.

"For over 40 years our Youth Tour contest consisted of written essays and speeches," said Tedder-Loffland. "The program has evolved to encourage students to utilize technology to aid their presentations. The finalists have surpassed our expectations each year and continue to impress us with their ability to convey their ideas using multimedia."

The panel of judges included Jarrod VanZant, public relations manager at Canadian Valley Electric Cooperative in Seminole, Oklahoma, Caleb Slinkard, editor of the Norman Transcript, and Melanie Wilderman, assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oklahoma's Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

As winners of the 2018 Youth Tour, Berry, Bradford, McFarland and Williams will travel to the nation's capital in June along with 70 of their peers from across the state — those 70 others will have also won their local electric co-op's Youth Tour contests. They will spend the week touring Washington, D.C.'s historic monuments and museums, meeting with Oklahoma's Congressional delegation and making dozens of new, lifelong friends. 

While at Camp RYLA, Campbell, Cosgrave, Hamilton and Harding will learn improved techniques of leadership. RYLA introduces a large number of young people and their families to the Rotary ideals of service each year. It helps bridge the communication gap between the generations and helps improve relationships among youth groups, families and the community.

"I am confident OEC will be very well represented both in Washington, D.C. and at Camp RYLA," said CEO Patrick Grace. "The board and I are happy to support programs that encourage our next generation of co-op members to dream big and become the community leaders we know they are capable of becoming."