Local teens return from nation's capital

Mancos and M-CHS students get a weeklong tour

Jessica Willburn, of Mancos High School, and Haley Nadone, from Montezuma-Cortez High School, recently participated in the electric cooperative Washington, D.C., Youth Tour Program sponsored by Empire Electric Association.

They spent a week in Washington with 28 peers representing electric cooperatives in Colorado. The program gives high school students opportunities to learn what it's like to be involved in politics, community service, and the energy industry.

Students started the trip in Colorado by learning about co-ops and electricity, touring the state Capitol, and meeting with state Sen. Lois Tochtrop. In Washington, they met with Sen. Michael Bennet and Reps. Cory Gardener, Ed Perlmutter, Jared Polis and Scott Tipton. They asked about education, energy, marijuana, PACs, balanced budgets, gun control, agriculture issues, endangered species listings, bipartisan cooperation among lawmakers.

Understanding patriotism and seeing the war memorials was another important part of the trip. They also met people representing other co-ops.

National Youth Day, sponsored by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, provided an opportunity for students to learn about community service and scholarship opportunities. They heard from Mike Schlappi, a four-time Paralympic medalist and two-time world Champion Wheelchair Basketball champion, who says, "Just because you can't stand up, doesn't mean you can't stand out."

Jessica and Haley said they had the experience of a lifetime meeting with peers from other states. "The youth tour was so amazing," Jessica said. "It was really cool to meet my senator and representative, and learn about politics up-close. Plus, I made friends from other states and experienced history first-hand. It really made me think about what it means to be an American, and shows that people my age do care about this country."

To learn how you can participate in Empire Electric's Washington Youth Tour program, call (970) 565-4444 or visit www.eea.coop.

To learn about the Youth Tour Program, visit www.youthtour.coop.