Youth Tour winners spend unforgettable week in Washington, D.C.
Four area teens recently returned from an unforgettable trip to Washington D.C. known as Youth Tour. The all-expenses paid, seven-day trek through America’s capital inspires hard-working students who earn themselves this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
More than 58 students, supported by 20 of Oklahoma’s electric co-ops, traveled to the capital to see the awe-inspiring monuments up close and personal in June. OEC’s Youth Tour delegation included Karter Caves from Amber-Pocasset High School and Brianna Lemaster, Collin Nguyen, and RyanQuinn Szymanski from Westmoore High School. The students were awarded the trip after successfully completing a presentation and application process in March.
“Every year, this contest attracts the most ambitious and determined students in our territory,” said OEC CEO Patrick Grace of the Youth Tour winners. “We have the best and the brightest young leaders in Oklahoma, and I was honored to have them represent us this year.”
In the capital, students toured historic sites and monuments, attended an interactive question-andanswer session with Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation and made life-long friends while learning about what it means to be a youth advocate in their community. Students also attended Youth Day with over 1,500 other Youth Tour winners from around the country.
Tory Tedder-Loffland, OEC’s Education and Outreach Programs Director, joined the group as a chaperone after she was selected via an application process to serve with other co-op employees.
“To see growth happen to every single kid is beautiful,” Tedder-Lofland said. “It’s not just that they’re making buddies. It’s the transformation they go through when we ask them to think about their impact on the world as they walk in view of our country’s history.”
Among a packed schedule, students visited Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon 9/11 memorial, a tour of Smithsonian museums, and a spur-of-the-moment trip to Medieval Times, a family dinner theater featuring staged medieval-style games, sword-fighting and jousting.
“Every time I think back on the trip, there are a thousand different memories I could name as some of the best times of my life,” Szymanski said. “Medieval Times was super fun, and we all enjoyed rooting for our knight and seeing other Youth Tour groups there.”
Oklahoma U.S. Congressman Markwayne Mullin continued his tradition of giving the Oklahoma Youth Tour group a private after-hours tour of the Capitol. Congressman Mullin guided the group through areas little known to the public, like back staircases where crosses were carved into the structures.
The young leaders came home with a newfound sense of purpose and appreciation. In addition to their development, they gained newfound friendships.
“You can look at pictures of monuments, buildings and paintings, but it’s not until you’re physically witnessing these things that your soul understands,” Tedder-Loffland said. “The impact that has is monumental, and that is what Youth Tour gives these kids.”
In addition to personal growth, the relationships formed during this week often endure into college and beyond.
“I still speak to most of the people I met, and I learned a lot from other participants and the people we met,” Szymanski said. “This experience helped me grow in many ways. I learned to lead and serve others by creating community and relationships.”
Congratulations to OEC’s four well-deserved 2022 Youth Tour winners. More information will be announced this fall for those interested in entering the 2023 Youth Tour contest.