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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 (41 from Minnesota) for the 51st annual National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) Rural Electric Youth Tour held June 13-18. Dakota Electric Association awarded the students the trip after they completed the application and interview process in March. The five local winners were Samson Ghirmai, Jessica Kostecki and Megan Smith, Apple Valley High School; Patrick Hartshorn, Lakeville North High School; and Tanner Ruppe, Northfield 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 2015 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 and Representative John Kline, among others.

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

“I really enjoyed visiting all of the monuments and museums especially the Pentagon Memorial and the Holocaust Museum,” Kostecki said. “I am so grateful for the opportunity Dakota Electric has given me to experience the heart of our nation and learn more about co-ops like Dakota Electric.”

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 54,600 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 2016 should watch for information in Dakota Electric’s newsletter or on the Web site in January or contact their guidance counselor.