The Electric Cooperative Youth Tour has brought high school students to Washington, D.C. for a week in June every year since the late 1950s. Students apply and are selected for this program by their local electric cooperative. We believe that students should see their nation’s capital up close, learn about the political process and interact with their elected officials.
Students gain a personal understanding of American history and their role as a citizen by meeting their Representative and Senators. While student groups are organized at the state level, they all come together for Youth Day, where they get to meet each other and hear featured speakers who provide insight to the important roles electric cooperatives play in their communities.
Nearly 50,000 students from rural areas and small towns across America have participated in this program. Some of our Youth Tour alumni have gone on to design airplanes, to lead companies and to serve in the highest ranks of our government, including the U.S. Senate. Don’t be surprised if you run into a former Youth Tour participant who is a congressional aide on Capitol Hill. While several of our alumni work in Washington, you will find even more alumni in your own community.
If you want to be part of this fun (free!) week in Washington, please contact your local electric cooperative for additional information.
Origins and History
Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson inspired the Youth Tour when he addressed the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) Annual Meeting in Chicago in 1957. The Senator and future president declared, “If one thing comes out of this meeting, it will be sending youngsters to the national capital where they can actually see what the flag stands for and represents.”
Consequently, some Texas electric cooperatives sent groups of young people to Washington to work during the summer in Senator Johnson’s office. In 1958, a rural electric cooperative in Iowa sponsored the first group of 34 young people on a week-long study tour of our nation’s capital. Later that same year, another busload came to Washington from Illinois. The idea grew and other states sent busloads of young people throughout the summer. By 1959, the “Youth Tour” had grown to 130 students.
In 1964, NRECA began to coordinate joint activities among the state delegations and suggested that co-op representatives from each state arrange to be in Washington, D.C., during Youth Tour week. The first year of the coordinated Tour included approximately 400 young people from 12 states. Word of the program has continued to spread and today, more than 1,500 students and over 250 chaperones participate in the Youth Tour every year.
Youth Tour directors from each state association arrange their delegation’s visits to their U.S. representatives’ and senators’ offices, federal agencies and other educational and sightseeing activities. In addition to the planned statewide activities, the Youth Tour experience encompasses multi-state activities coordinated by NRECA.