Washington Youth Tour, Classroom in Democracy


The graduating Class of 2019 includes young men and women who’ve been helped by scholarship and youth programs offered by Middle Tennessee Electric (MTEMC). We feel special pride in their achievements, and we hope you share that as members of the cooperative.

The foundation we build in youth today helps determine their future and ours. So we see our investment in educational programs representing a deep-rooted community commitment embedded in our founding principles.

Through the SharingChange not-for-profit grant program, MTE awards annual scholarships totaling more than $20,000. We also support numerous community- and school-based programs like 4-H, STEM, Boys and Girls Clubs, libraries, book festivals and more.

But our crown-jewel educational program has long been the Washington Youth Tour, a unique opportunity for local high school students to represent MTEMC and Tennessee in our nation’s capital. Youth Tour (YT) introduces more than 1,500 students from across the U.S.—and 250 chaperones (electric co-op staffers and teachers)—to the workings of democracy and government.

Imagine a civics class in walking distance of the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives, White House and Supreme Court—with the added backdrop of historical monuments, memorials and museums around the National Mall and capital complex. Students chosen for YT meet their senators and members of Congress, network with other tour participants and make friendships that last a lifetime.

We are proud to sponsor a group of YT students each year in June. Selection is a competitive process. Applicants write stories on a theme demonstrating their knowledge of electric cooperatives and how these member-owned utilities provide safe, reliable, affordable electricity to millions of households and businesses.

YT traces roots back to a 1957 comment made by a Texas senator (and future U.S. President), Lyndon B. Johnson, about exposing electric co-op youth to democracy in action by sending them to Washington for up-close and personal experiences. “They can actually see what the flag stands for and represents,” he said.

From there, YT grew into a coordinated effort involving hundreds of electric co-ops, state co-op associations and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). As someone who has seen firsthand the impact of this student education and development program, I can attest to the lasting impression it makes on young, bright minds.

Frequently, former YT students are led to consider public service careers. Some have run for office and been elected. What better testimonial could there be for young adults who represent the future of America?

Watch for 2020 Washington Youth Tour announcements and details this fall. School guidance counselors are furnished information and our latest group of YT’ers will be highlighted in a future issue of The Tennessee Magazine.

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