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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 1,700 students from across the nation (40 from Minnesota) for the 52nd annual National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) Rural Electric Youth Tour held June 11-16. Dakota Electric Association awarded the students the trip after they completed the application and interview process in March. The five local winners were Jenna Conzemius, Cretin-Derham Hall High School; Sarah Crippes, Apple Valley High School; Emily Haberlack, Burnsville High School; Liesl Larson, Christian Life Academy; and Erin Mayer, Eastview 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 2016 Youth Tour consisted of learning about governmental processes, issues of the day, electric cooperatives, American history and meeting with elected legislators, including Representative Rick Nolan (8th District), who gave them a private tour of the Capitol building.

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

“It truly was a trip of a lifetime,” Crippes said. “The friendships I made, places I visited and new knowledge on electric cooperatives are things I will never forget.”

Crippes was selected to represent Minnesota on the Youth Leadership Council. As a delegate to the YLC, she will return to Washington D.C. in July to focus on leadership skills, and then in 2017, she will participate in the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s annual meeting.

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, since 1964. In that time, more than 56,300 high school students from the nation’s cooperative electric utilities have visited their U.S. congressional lawmakers, attended grassroots government education sessions and enjoyed sightseeing in Washington D.C.

Students wishing to participate in Youth Tour 2017 should watch for information in Dakota Electric’s newsletter or on the Web site in January or contact their guidance counselor.