PHOTO: Washington Youth Tour delegates (from left) Maenishia Simmons, Charmi Patel, Stephanie Pierre, Yee Aung and Meaghan Shaughnessy were chosen for a week-long leadership experience in Washington, D.C.
Despite the best efforts of extraordinary teachers across the nation, many students have a difficult time fully understanding and appreciating U.S. history. For that reason, many academics recommend taking students to historical sites where they not only learn history but experience it through interactive exhibits and firsthand accounts.
Earlier this year, Yee Aung from Dallas, Charmi Patel from Hiram, Stephanie Pierre from Villa Rica, and Meaghan Shaughnessy and Maenishia Simmons from Douglasville were chosen for such a trip and recently returned from the Washington Youth Tour, a week-long leadership experience for teens sponsored by the electric cooperatives in Georgia, including GreyStone Power.
Each year in June, high school students in Georgia join approximately 1,600 of their talented and ambitious peers in Washington, D.C. to learn leadership skills, understand the importance of civic involvement and tour the nation’s historic sites. When combined, the various aspects of the trip provide a unique lesson that cannot be duplicated in any classroom.
“The students come away with a new appreciation for the history of the country they live in, an interest in government and their elected representatives, and a new sense of responsibility when they realize how many people sacrificed for us so we could all live in a free society,” says Vicki Harshbarger with GreyStone Power.
“We think it’s important to bring along the next generation of young people and teach them the importance of leadership and public service,” says Harshbarger.
According to Georgia EMC Youth Tour Director Gale Cutler, the purpose of the Youth Tour is to help EMCs promote stronger communities and a stronger nation by giving as many young people as possible the ability and desire to make meaningful, lifelong contributions to their communities.
This year, 106 students and 14 chaperones from Georgia participated in the Tour with a kick-off banquet in Atlanta, emceed by WSB-TV’s Sophia Choi. Before heading to D.C., the group toured the FDR Little White House in Warm Springs, the birthplace of the rural electricity movement.
In D.C., highlights included visits to Arlington Cemetery, U.S. Capitol, National Archives (where they viewed the Declaration of Independence), Supreme Court, Library of Congress and the Smithsonian museums. The students also toured the revered Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, MLK, WWII, Vietnam and Korean War memorials.
The Georgia delegation visited a new stop this year—Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor—the site of a famous battle in the War of 1812 that inspired Francis Scott Key’s “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
In addition to taking in the sights of the nation’s capital, students gained perspective on some of today’s important issues and their role as involved citizens. Everyone had the opportunity to engage with staff and/or members of Georgia’s congressional delegation, including personal visits with leaders Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson and U.S. Reps. Jack Kingston, Sanford Bishop, Lynn Westmoreland, Austin Scott, Doug Collins, Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey, John Barrow, Tom Graves and Rob Woodall’s Chief of Staff.
“My favorite stops were the memorials that we went to. After learning about the Vietnam conflict for almost two months in school, it was very moving to see it in person. I loved the symbolism in each memorial,” says Shaughnessy.
Finally, all the state groups convened for National Youth Day, sponsored by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, to learn from public figures and other inspirational speakers, including Jo Ann Emerson, NRECA’s new chief executive officer.
Over the past 50 years, more than 50,000 young citizens have traveled to Washington with the help of their electric cooperatives. The 2013 delegates follow an esteemed group of recent WYT alumni who have graduated as valedictorians, salutatorians and STAR students. Others are now working as congressional aides and as federal agency staff, and many more are serving in some role in state and local government.
Photos from this year’s tour are posted on the national Youth Tour Web site at http://photos.youthtour.org.
GreyStone Power serves more than 106,500 members in portions of eight counties, including Paulding, Douglas, Fulton, Cobb, Carroll, Bartow, Fayette and Coweta counties. Learn more at www.greystonepower.com.
Georgia EMC is the statewide trade association representing the state’s 41 EMCs, Oglethorpe Power Corp., Georgia Transmission Corp. and Georgia System Operations Corp. Collectively, Georgia’s customer-owned EMCs provide electricity and related services to more than five million people, half of Georgia’s population, across 73 percent of the state’s land area.