Local youth visit DC on 2010 Youth Tour

US capitolMore than 130 students from across Tennessee experienced our nation's capital as part of the Washington Youth Tour. The Youth Tour is an annual youth program sponsored by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and member utilities across the nation including Fayetteville Public Utilities.

Rachel Bray, DJ Boyd, Haley Watson and Owen Jenkins, all from Lincoln County, were awarded a week-long trip to Washington, D.C., for writing winning short stories titled "Electric Cooperatives: Energizing Our Communities." The short stories described how their locally-owned and -operated public utility provides valuable community-building support as well as reliable and affordable services.

The Washington Youth Tour has been a joint effort in the rural electric industry for more than 40 years. Each school year, FPU sponsors a short story contest for high school juniors. Winners are awarded trips to our nation's capital as part of the Washington Youth Tour. This year's whirlwind trip ran June 11-17 and included meetings with US congressmen, visits to Washington's popular tourist stops and time to meet Youth Tour winners representing Tennessee and other states as well.

"This year's Youth Tour was another fantastic trip," said Gina Warren, FPU's public information specialist, who served as a tour chaperone. "I am always impressed with the young people who win the trip to Washington, DC, and this year was no exception. These future leaders thoroughly enjoyed everything they saw and were model ambassadors representing their families, state and hometown utility system."

On the tour, students saw famous sites including the White House and memorials to past presidents Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt as well as monuments honoring the sacrifices of veterans of World War II and the Vietnam and Korean Wars. Strolls through the museums of the Smithsonian Institution afforded the students opportunities to learn more about science, history and art. Other fun stops included homes of former presidents - George Washington's Mount Vernon and Jefferson's Monticello - a performance of "Thurgood" at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Sunset Parade performed at the Iwo Jima Memorial by the United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps and Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon, and tours of the National Crime and Punishment Museum and the Newseum.

The Youth Tour also included visits to Arlington National Cemetery where they saw the changing of the guard. While there, four students from Tennessee placed a wreath on behalf of the group at the Tomb of the Unknowns. 

No trip to DC would be complete without a visit to the US Capitol. The group was treated to a special after-hours, VIP guided tour of the historic U.S. Capitol by Rep. Lincoln Davis. Students also met on the Capitol steps with Tennessee's senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker.

Tennessee's Youth Tour delegation also joined other trip winners from across the country for Youth Day on Monday, June 14. And Mike Schlappi, a four-time Paralympic medalist and two-time wheelchair basketball champion, returned for this year's program to share his inspiring message for every American, young or old: "Just because you can't stand up doesn't mean you can't stand out."

"The Youth Tour is an example of the educational programs we sponsor to educate our youth," says Britt Dye, CEO and General Manager.  "Through this and similar educational opportunities made possible by FPU, our future customers experience first-hand how we serve their communities."

Each year, one short story from each electric utility across the state is entered in the statewide writing contest vying for one of three scholarships. This year, Rachel Bray from Lincoln County won second place in the state writing contest and received a $2,000 scholarship.

"We congratulate Rachel on winning the scholarship, and we congratulate all our Youth Tour winners on a job well done," says Dye.

Rachel is the daughter of Randall and Brenda George, DJ is the son of Patrick and Shelia Bates, Haley is the daughter of Richard and Stephanie Watson, and Owen is the son of Todd and Jennie Jenkins.