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Five area high school students, sponsored by Dakota Electric Association, recently returned from a Washington D.C. trip-of-a-lifetime. Dakota Electric’s students joined more than 1,600 students from across the nation (37 total from Minnesota) for the 49th annual National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) Rural Electric Youth Tour held June 14-20.

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 Zachary Eichten, Rosemount High School, Brett Johnson, Farmington High School; Cory Kroonblawd, Concordia Academy; Anna Larson, Christian Life School; and Miranda Lawell, Apple Valley 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 2013 Youth Tour consisted of learning about governmental processes, issues of the day, electric cooperatives, American history and meeting with elected legislators, including Senators Klobuchar and Franken.

Students had fun, enjoyed seeing many sites and memorials, learned many things and made memories.

“The most memorable part was being in a new place and experiencing what its like to live in D.C. for a few days,” Johnson said.

“The monuments, memorials, Capitol Hill and museums all were highlights along the way,” Kroonblawd said. “This was possibly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I am so blessed I was able to attend.”

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.”

The Electric Cooperative Youth Tour has been a joint effort of local electric co-ops, such as Dakota Electric, their statewide co-op associations, including the Minnesota Rural Electric Association, and the NRECA, Arlington, Virginia, since 1964. In that time, the nation’s cooperative electric utilities have sponsored more than 51,000 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 2014 should watch for information in Dakota Electric’s newsletter or on the Web site in January or contact their guidance counselor.