New-Mac sends high school students to Washington D.C.

“It was life changing!” said Lydia Rockers.

“It was amazing!” said Owen Gray.

Owen Gray and Lydia Rockers represented New-Mac on the 2018 Youth Tour

That is how New-Mac Electric’s delegates described their experience in Washington D.C. as they participated in the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s (NRECA) annual Youth Tour.

Gray and Rockers earned their trip to our nation’s capital by being the two top finishers in New-Mac Electric’s 3rd Annual Youth Tour/CYCLE Contest this past spring. The competition was made available to 11th-grade students (including home/private school) residing in the 10 school districts served in part by New-Mac. Participants wrote a short essay about how electricity has improved farm life. Then finalists were brought in for interviews.

Rockers attends Carthage High School, while Gray goes to Diamond High School. Their prize was an expense-paid trip to Washington D.C. along with other cooperative representatives from across the country. The third- and fourth-place finishers in New-Mac’s contest were Brayton Link of East Newton H.S. and Emma Bragg, who is home schooled. They will participate in CYCLE (Cooperative Youth Conference & Learning Experience), where they will join other Missouri co-op delegates July 19-21 in Jefferson City.

Youth Tour took place June 8-14. The co-op delegates toured numerous national monuments, the Smithsonian Institution’s museums and Arlington National Cemetery. They met with congressional representatives, took a sightseeing cruise on the Potomac River, and had many others memorable experiences.

“It was a great trip,” said Gray. “I got to see so many things that I don’t think I would have been able to see otherwise. I got to meet some fantastic people. It was just an amazing experience to go see all the things that you always read about in the textbooks.”

Rockers had similar thoughts: “I feel like I had the opportunity to meet so many incredible people and see so many incredible new places. It just really changed my perspective on how I view electric cooperatives and what they do for us as people, and how I view the world.”

Missouri sent 106 delegates, pictured here outside the White House

One of her favorite stops was the Newseum, which chronicles the role of a free press in major events in our nation’s history. “I thought it was really neat that it brought the journalists’ stories to the forefront of attention,” she said. “There was a section on FBI agents and their connection to the newspaper, also on World War II, and 9/11. I thought that it was really cool to see those powerful stories brought forth in such a powerful way.”

Gray’s highlight was “definitely” Arlington National Cemetery. “It was just so beautiful and peaceful. I found it amazing that we set aside such a beautiful piece of land for those people who have given their lives to defend our nation where they can finally rest in peace.”

The trip also included Electric Youth Day, which brought together more than 1,800 Youth Tour delegates from across the United States. It featured speeches by government leaders and motivational speakers, such as Mike Schlappi, a four-time Paralympic medalist and two-time world wheelchair basketball champion.

Both of New-Mac’s representatives also feel they came away with some enduring friendships while interacting with the other 104 Missouri delegates on the trip. Gray said he’s been keeping up with his new friends through texting and social media, while Rockers has a group of new acquaintances she made who reside in the northern part of the state coming to see what the southwest corner is all about.

Gray and Rockers also believe it was well worth their efforts to write the 400-600 word essay that put them into New-Mac’s competition and would encourage future juniors to participate.

“On yeah, without a doubt,” said Rockers. “Take the time to write the essay because the rewards that come from it are far better than any difficulties that may be encountered in writing.”

“Do it,” said Gray. “It’s such a little thing that can give you such a huge reward.”