In June, I was one of thousands of students who met in Washington D.C to take part in the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) Youth Tour 2016. Through the generosity of NRECA, we were given scholarships to participate in a program where we spent a week in Washington D.C. seeing sites and meeting people. This fabulous opportunity came at no cost to myself or any of the other students.
The Youth Tour is a week long visit every June, exploring Washington D.C and meeting new friends from all over America. This event has existed since the early 1950s and still continues to occur every June. Students in their junior year of high school are eligible to apply and be interviewed for this trip. Only students selected by the local electric cooperative have a chance to participate in the program. When a friend of mine told me about this opportunity, I immediately went to my guidance office and requested information about it. I filled out the application, and later was notified of an interview date and time, and received facts about REC to help me prepare for the interview. My interview went well, and along with 4 other Somerset County students, I was chosen to represent Somerset REC at the 2016 Youth Tour.
Upon arriving in Washington, D.C., we met up with other students from Pennsylvania, and stayed together for most of the trip. We also were partnered with New Jersey students, who were a part of our group.
During the trip, we visited several places such as the historical monuments, the Smithsonian museums, and had the opportunity to meet our State Representatives, which for me was Senator Bill Shuster. Then we explored more of Washington D.C. Some of the monuments we visited were the Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, FDR Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, World War II Memorial and the Pentagon Memorial. At each site, we were able to explore the memorial and learned about the reasons behind their existence.
Along with visiting the monuments, we went to Arlington Cemetery and captured the changing of the guards service at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We watched middle school students pass the wreath over to the guards, and observed the men change guard positions. This event was the most memorable part of the trip for me, because it was something I never observed. It seems like a basic procedure to switch guards, but they have a unique process and procedure that they honor at all times.
On another day, we visited the Nation’s Capital and had some time to talk to Bill Shuster and another Pennsylvania State Representative, Keith Rothfus.Since Bill Shuster is the representative for my region of PA, I had the chance to meet with him along with other students from my region. We all came with questions to ask, ranging from what Shuster does everyday to how he is addressing certain issues in Pennsylvania. He was very informative and pleasant to talk too. I was grateful that he took time out of his busy schedule to talk to students that are concerned about our government.
This trip was not just to build a greater understanding for our nation’s government. It also helped me build relationships and meet new people. The coordinators of the 2016 Youth Tour added some exciting aspects to this event to make sure that happened. The very first night we spent in Washington D.C. some of the states went on a boat cruise. This wasn’t any typical boat cruise. We were treated with a DJ for a boat dance party. This helped me break out of my shell and just have fun with all of the people I had just met. Another night, we had a huge dance with all the states that were at Youth Tour that week. We got to experience how to Texans dance, from line dancing to their other types of dancing, which was fun for everyone that enjoys dancing and having a good time.
The trip wrapped up when a few of the PA student representatives went to Dave and Busters and spent time with our new friends before we had to say goodbye. We ate some delicious food, and played tons of games all paid by NRECA.
This trip was a great learning experience for me, and I hope others take advantage to at least apply for this trip. National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Youth Tour 2016 will always be in my memories, because it was for sure a trip of a lifetime. If any junior student would be interested in applying make sure to stop at your guidance office, in March and pick up an application form, and submit it to Somerset REC for an interview date and time. I hope more students take advantage of this opportunity; it comes only once in a lifetime.