Students represent DREMC on 50th tour

Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Representing Bedford County on the trip are Kaitlyn Melton, Community High School, Gayle Gragg, Bedford County Schools and Jackson Smith, Shelbyville Central High School. (Submitted photo)

Some 1,700 future leaders -- including almost 140 from Tennessee electric cooperatives -- traveled to Washington, D.C., June 12-18 for the annual Electric Cooperative Youth Tour.

Ten students from the Duck River Electric Membership Corp. service area were rewarded with spots on the tour for writing winning short stories titled "Electric Cooperatives: Powering Potential." The stories described how locally owned, member-controlled electric cooperatives continue improving lives in their service areas through special community-building programs as well as reliable and affordable electric service.

Gayle Gragg from Bedford County was also awarded a spot on the trip to recognize her invaluable support of the co-op's youth programs.

"The annual Youth Tour is an opportunity for youth living in co-op territory to visit our nation's capital and learn about the importance of electric cooperatives," said National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO Jo Ann Emerson.

"Our youth are our future leaders, politicians and educators, and the Youth Tour is a strong reminder each year of how bright that future will be."

Previous Youth Tour participants have become university presidents, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and members of Congress. In fact, in his commencement speech to graduates of George Washington University this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook credited the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour with his first trip to Washington.

Many visitors

Over the past 51 years, nearly 50,000 students have visited Washington through the Youth Tour.

The Washington Youth Tour is a joint effort of DREMC, the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

This year's trip marked the 50th anniversary of Tennessee's participation in the enriching, inspiring program for the young leaders from co-op service areas.

"Youth Tour is one of the most rewarding things I do all year," said Connie Potts, consumer information specialist, who served as a chaperone. "These students not only learn about our nation and their electric cooperative, but they also learn leadership skills that will benefit them in college and beyond."

The trip

Students on the tour visited 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 varied 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, as well as a boat cruise down the Potomac River. The Youth Tour also included a solemn and sobering visit to Arlington National Cemetery, where the group laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

Meeting leaders

No trip to Washington, D.C., would be complete without a lesson or two in government and civics. The group was welcomed to the U.S. Capitol by Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, and Rep. Diane Black also spent some time with her constituents outside the Capitol and posed for photos.

"We are owned by our members, and it is important that our members understand how that makes us different," said DREMC President & CEO Michael Watson.

"Our communities and our co-ops need strong leadership, and the Washington Youth Tour is one way we can help prepare students for the roles they may one day fill. The tour and similar educational opportunities made possible by DREMC are designed to help students understand what it takes to be leaders in their communities and why leadership is so important."

About DREMC

DREMC is a not-for-profit, member owned organization providing electric and other services to more than 71,000 homes and businesses in southern Middle Tennessee. DREMC serves an area of approximately 2,500 square miles in Bedford, Coffee, Franklin, Giles, Grundy, Hickman, Lawrence, Lewis, Lincoln, Marion, Marshall, Maury, Moore, Rutherford, and Williamson counties in southern Middle Tennessee.