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Five students from local high schools in and around Dakota Electric Association’s service territory recently returned from a trip-of-a-lifetime to Washington D.C. and one student was selected to represent Minnesota on the Youth Leadership Council in July. Dakota Electric’s students joined more than 1,500 students from across the nation (35 total from Minnesota) for the 47th annual Rural Electric Youth Tour held June 12-17. Dakota Electric Association awarded the students an all-expense-paid trip after they completed the application and interview process in March. The five local winners were Magaly Ortiz, Apple Valley High School; Hannah Anderson and Katherine Engstrom, both of Rosemount High School; Kendra Boyle Hoban, Cannon Falls High School; and Beeta Riahi, Burnsville High School.

Each year in June, an activity-filled week affords these high school youth opportunities to learn first hand what it is like to be involved in politics, community development and today’s social issues. The events of the 2010 Youth Tour consisted of learning about governmental processes, issues of the day, electric cooperatives, American history and meeting with elected legislators, including representatives Bachmann and Kline and senators Klobuchar and Frankin.

“The trip was an amazing experience that I will never forget,” Ortiz said. “It left me with gained knowledge and beautiful memories.”

In addition to taking in the sights and sounds of Washington D.C., all state groups convened for Rural Electric Youth Day to learn from public figures and other inspirational speakers.

Mike Schlappi, a four-time Paralympic medalist and two-time World Champion wheelchair basketball champion, gave an inspiring message for every American, young or old: “Just because you can’t stand up, doesn’t mean you can’t stand out.”

“I absolutely loved the trip!” Engstrom said. “Seeing numerous fascinating and inspiring monuments and getting to meet with politicians that make decisions for us daily was phenomenal.”

Riahi was chosen to represent Minnesota on the Youth Leadership Council. As part of this special honor, Riahi will travel to Washington D.C. again in July for a special conference that includes leadership training, team building exercises and more. Riahi and select delegates from other states will also attend the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) annual meeting in Orlando next March.

“While representing Minnesota, I also want to become a better leader in order to help others reach their full potential,” Riahi said, “It is an honor to represent Minnesota, and I am very thankful for this opportunity.”

The Electric Cooperative Youth Tour has been a joint effort of local electric co-ops, such as Dakota Electric, their statewide co-op associations, and the NRECA, Arlington, Virginia, since 1964. In that time, the nation’s cooperative electric utilities have sponsored more than 40,000 high school students for visits to their U.S. congressional delegations, grassroots government education sessions and sightseeing in Washington.

Students wishing to participate in Youth Tour 2011 should watch for information in Dakota Electric’s newsletter or on the Web site in January or contact their guidance counselor.