09:39 AM

Perspective: Supporting Our Student Leaders

When time allows, I like to stop and look at old photos – especially those with a little history to share.

Near my office, there’s a hanging black and white photo of President Lyndon B. Johnson greeting students in Washington, D.C. Many of the students’ hands are stretched toward the president, although a few of them are focusing their cameras on Johnson. It was 1968 and those students were just some of the youth selected for a tour to see the nation’s capital.

Before he became president, then-Senator Johnson encouraged the nation’s electric cooperatives to send students to Washington, D.C., to learn more about our country. Since then, more than 50,000 students from across the country have participated in the Washington Youth Tour. Jackson EMC began sending student delegates on the tour in 1971. Representing their local co-ops, the delegates participate in a week long tour to learn about the American political process and meet their elected officials.

Students selected for the tour, have demonstrated outstanding character, community services and achievement, and are interviewed by a panel of community leaders. The students on the Washington Youth Tour are indeed some of the brightest and most dedicated people in their communities. You’ll read about Jackson EMC’s 2019 tour delegates in this issue of JEMCO News.

More than 40 years ago, Tim Cook was one of those delegates for his co-op. That name probably sounds familiar because he’s now the CEO of Apple. Not too long ago, Cook shared with an audience the impact that being a Washington Youth Tour delegate made on his life. Cook said he was surprised he won a spot on the tour after writing multiple drafts of his essay by hand. As a delegate of a co-op in Alabama, the tour started with a visit to their state capitol, where they met the governor. Cook then took his first plane trip, at the age of 16, to Washington, D.C., where he met the president.

Like many of the students across the country selected for the Washington Youth Tour, the trip for Cook was the farthest he had traveled from home. The Alabama co-op Cook represented, Baldwin EMC, was the same electric cooperative where my dad retired from several years ago. When cooperatives select their delegates for the Washington Youth Tour, they know they’re sending some of the most impressive students in their communities to learn and network with other young leaders from across the nation.

We’re honored to support these rising young leaders in our community. When electric cooperatives invest in youth, they’re making a difference for the future. Years from now, when looking back on photos of our delegates, I know we’ll be impressed with what they’ve accomplished.

Have some thoughts on how we can serve our young leaders? Share it with me at [email protected].