Oklahoma Teens Embark on Youth Tour
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 hardworking students who earn themselves this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Oklahoma’s electric co-ops sent 70 students and 11 chaperones to the capital to see the awe-inspiring monuments up close and personal in June. OEC’s Youth Tour delegation included Nandini Patel from Westmoore High School, Chandler Patterson from Tuttle High School, Shepard Schuermann from Community Christian School in Norman, and Jayce Sherman from Blanchard High School. After completing the three-part application, short presentation and interview, the students won the trip to D.C.
“Every year, this contest attracts the most ambitious and determined students in our territory,” 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.”
“I really like that we got to use our creativity to create a community service project we care about,” Patterson said. “Each of us has something different and unique to offer, and the contest values that.”
In the capital, students toured historic sites and monuments, attended an interactive question-and-answer session with Oklahoma’s congressional delegation and made life-long friends while learning what it means to be a youth advocate in their community. Students also attended Youth Day with over 1,500 other Youth Tour winners nationwide.
Tory Tedder-Loffland, OEC’s Education and Outreach Programs Director, joined the group as a chaperone in 2022.
“That was my third time to be selected as a chaperone,” Tedder-Loffland said. “I will apply for the honor every year I am able. To see growth happen to every single kid is beautiful. It’s not just that they are making buddies. It’s their transformation 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 National Pentagon 9/11 Memorial, Smithsonian museums and Fort McHenry in Baltimore.
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 and pointed out bullet holes from past skirmishes. The young leaders came home with a newfound sense of purpose and appreciation.
“You can look at pictures of monuments, buildings and paintings, but it’s not until you are physically witnessing these things that your soul understands,” Tedder-Loffland said. “The impact they have and the events they represent are monumental. 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.
“On the trip, it was amazing how fast we became close,” said Patterson. “It was incredible to experience as a group.”
Patterson was named the first alternate for the Youth Leadership Council. Only one student per state receives the honor. Patel was named as a top-10 finalist.
Congratulations to OEC’s four well-deserved 2023 Youth Tour winners. The 2024 Youth Tour Contest opens in August with exciting NEW benefits. Stay updated at okcoop.org/youthtour
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