Five students in front of capitol

Dakota Electric’s Youth Tour students pose for a picture in front of the capitol building while in Washington D.C. (L-R): Davin Blix, Sanjana Molleti, Sarah Zipf, Emma Veldhuis and Nils Peterson.

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 1,800 students from across the nation (37 from Minnesota) for the 54th annual National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) Rural Electric Youth Tour held June 15-20. Dakota Electric awarded the students the trip after they completed the application and interview process in March. The five local winners were Davin Blix, Burnsville High School; Sanjana Molleti, Eastview High School; Nils Peterson, Eagan High School; Emma Veldhuis, Eagan High School; and Sarah Zipf, Eastview High School.

Each year in June, an activity-filled week affords high school youth from around the nation opportunities to learn firsthand what it is like to be involved in politics, community development and today’s social issues. The events of the Youth Tour consisted of learning about governmental processes, issues of the day, electric cooperatives, American history and meeting with elected legislators, including Senator Smith and staff members for Senator Klobuchar and representatives Peterson and Stauber.

Students had fun, enjoyed seeing many sites and memorials, learned many things and made memories.
“This trip was the perfect way to appreciate my country while identifying paths to make it even better. I had an amazing time and am super grateful for the opportunity,” said Molleti.

“This was such an incredible experience and will be one of the most memorable weeks of my life,” Veldhuis said. “I believe this is a one-of-a-kind experience that you won’t get any other way. We flew out of Minnesota at the beginning of the week as 37 strangers, and by the time we returned home, those strangers were close friends.”

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 61,800 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 2020 (June 19-25) should watch for information in Dakota Electric’s newsletter or on the Web site in January or contact their school’s guidance counselor. Read more about their trip in August Circuits.