Best and Brightest | OEC News

Youth Tour, Camp RYLA winners named following March banquet

OEC awarded all-expenses-paid trips to eight extremely talented high school juniors during the 2023 Youth Tour Banquet held March 9. Nandini Patel from Westmoore High School, Chandler Patterson from Tuttle High School, Shephard Schuerman from Community Christian School and Jayce Sherman from Blanchard High School won a seven-day trip to Washington, D.C. on Oklahoma’s Youth Tour. The other finalists — Brayden Brumley from Newcastle High School, Emma Fletcher from Norman High School, Reece Rylee from Westmore High School, and Brea Willoughby from Purcell — won trips to Camp RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Awards). Both trips will occur this summer.

All applicants were asked to design a community-benefitting project, produce a short video promoting the project and write a professional letter to a leader of their choice about either their project or other public interest issues. Finalists created PowerPoint presentations and “pitched” their community projects in front of OEC trustees, senior staff, representatives from their schools, their families and three independent judges.

“I am impressed by all the applicants and their passion for service,” said Tory Tedder-Loffland, OEC’s education and outreach programs director. “This contest emphasizes grass-roots initiatives to effect positive change in their communities.”

OEC and OAEC redesigned the Youth Tour contest for 2023 to focus on three areas core to the co-op identity: community involvement, social connection and legislative participation.

“We want to support and encourage the kind of human who lends their talents and efforts to improving life in their communities,” Tedder-Loffland said. “All eight of these finalists qualify as amazing humans who will do amazing things in life.”

The panel of judges included Representative Dick Lowe of District 56, Norman City Councilwoman Lauren Schuler of Ward 2, and owner of Fusion Fitness & Yoga, Lindsey Densow.

As winners of the 2023 Youth Tour, Patel, Patterson, Schuermann and Sherman will travel to the nation’s capital in June along with 70 of their peers from electric co-ops across the state. They will spend the week touring Washington, D.C.’s historic monuments and museums, meeting with Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation and making new, lifelong friends.

While at Camp RYLA, Brumley, Reece, Fletcher and Willoughby will learn improved techniques of leadership. Their enthusiasm and technique are brought back to their communities, where their positive influence impacts those around them. 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 OEC 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.”

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