Four area teens recently returned from an unforgettable trip to Washington, D.C. Known as Youth Tour, the all-expenses-paid, seven-day trip to the nation’s capital inspires the talented, hard-working students who have the opportunity to experience it.
The 70 students on this year’s trip were sponsored by 25 of Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives. Audrey Bradford from Amber-Pocasset High School, Jasmine Williams and Josie McFarland from Newcastle High School, and Lauren Berry from Westmoore High School represented OEC on Youth Tour in June. They were awarded the trip after successfully completing a presentation and application process. OEC Education and Outreach Coordinator Tory Tedder-Loffland attended Youth Tour as one of eight chaperones.
“Every year the contestants seem to get better and better,” said OEC CEO Patrick Grace. “We have the best and the brightest young leaders in Oklahoma, and I was honored to have them represent us this year.”
While in D.C., the students toured historic sites, attended a question-and-answer session with Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation and made new, lifelong friends. They also attended the national Youth Day with over 1,600 Youth Tour winners from around the country.
“It is incredible to watch the students evolve,” said Tedder-Loffland. “They start in awe of their surroundings, but through experiences like meeting their representatives and witnessing their humanity and accessibility, the students grow to believe anything is possible for them.”
Among the highlights of the trip were visiting the monuments and touring Mount Vernon, the Holocaust Museum and the Newseum. For most of the students, the most special moment was the private tour of the Capitol building.
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 usually off limits, like the floor of the House of Representatives.
“I am so grateful that [Youth Tour] allowed me to listen and interview the senators and representatives of our state,” said Bradford. “Most of them sacrifice time with their family and friends to run this country, and it put a deep sense of respect in my heart for our government.”
The purpose of Youth Tour is to give the students valuable insight into American history, while giving them the tools and the training necessary to succeed as young leaders in today’s ever-changing political climate. After all, the electric cooperative movement was born in politics in the 1930s.
“The history I walked on, the things I saw (both entertaining and eye-opening) and the people I encountered have all impacted me in a special way that has helped me grow as a person,” said Berry.
Williams echoed Berry’s statement, saying “I really feel like I’ve grown so much as a person throughout this whole experience.”
In addition to personal growth, the relationships formed during this week often endure into college and beyond.
“Walking the same steps as my heroes gave me a feeling of empowerment and optimism,” said McFarland. “One day, I hope to continue to walk in their footsteps, but as a career.”
Congratulations to OEC’s four well-deserved Youth Tour winners of 2018.