Youth Tours

Youth Tours


The Electric Cooperative Youth Tour is a group of more than 1,600 high school students who visit Washington, D.C., every June, year after year, from small towns and cities all over America. They come because their electric cooperatives think education is important — education about electric cooperatives and education about America.

Senator Lyndon Johnson inspired the Youth Tour when he addressed the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) Annual Meeting in Chicago in 1957. The senator declared, “If one thing goes out of this meeting, it will be sending youngsters to the national capital where they can actually see what the flag stands for and represents.” 

Then, beginning in 1957, some of the Texas electric cooperatives sent groups of young people to Washington to work during the summer in Senator Johnson’s office and learn more about government in action.

In 1958, rural electric cooperatives in Iowa sponsored the first group of 34 young people on a week-long study tour of the nation’s capital. Later that same year, another busload of students went to Washington, D.C., from Illinois. The idea grew, and other states sent busloads of young people throughout the summer. By 1959, the Youth Tour had grown to 130 students.

In 1964, NRECA began to coordinate the program and suggested that cooperative representatives from each state arrange to be in Washington, D.C., during Youth Tour week. The first year of the coordinated tour included approximately 400 young people from 12 states. The idea has continued to grow, and today more than 1,600 young people and chaperones participate in the Youth Tour each year.

Why does JWEMC send students on the Youth Tour?

The goals of the tours are to provide the opportunity for outstanding young people to:

  • Increase their understanding of the value of rural electrification.
  • Become more familiar with the historical and political environment of the nation’s capital through visits to monuments, government buildings, and cooperative organizations. 
  • Visit elected officials to increase their knowledge of how the federal government works.

Montgomery Youth Tour

The 2021 Montgomery Youth Tour will be held March 9-11 with approximately 150 high school students representing 19 cooperatives from around the state participating.

Students will:

  • Participate in leadership sessions on rising above negative peer pressure and the importance of teamwork. 
  • Attend a special dinner where they can enjoy a dance, photo booth, and other activities.
  • Take part in several team-building activities with Cea Cohen Elliott.
  • Tour the Alabama Department of Archives, the Alabama State House, the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, the Alabama Capitol, and the Civil Rights Memorial. 
  • Meet with local Legislators and community leaders. 

Washington Youth Tour

The 2021 Washington Youth Tour will be June. JWEMC delegates will join 50 other students from around Alabama and nearly 1,600 other high-school students from around the country for an activity-filled week.

Highlights from the Washington Youth Tour trip include:

Visits to Capitol Hill - AREA coordinates meetings with U.S. Representatives and Senators from Alabama. Students discuss government and current issues with many other elected officials. Lawmakers answer questions on everything from energy policy to world affairs.

Sightseeing - Students tour the following attractions in the Washington, D.C., area: Arlington National Cemetery; Mount Vernon; the FDR Memorial; Jefferson Memorial; the Vietnam, Korean, World War II and Iwo Jima memorials; the Lincoln Memorial; the Smithsonian and the Holocaust Museum. Students also attend a live performance at the Kennedy Center. Students enjoy attractions such as Madame Toussaud’s Wax Museum and the Newseum as well. 

Youth Day - In addition to taking in the sights and sounds of the nation’s Capitol, all the state groups convene for Youth Day to hear from public figures. 

During Youth Day, a highlight of the week-long Youth Tour, students listen to inspirational speakers who challenge individuals of all ages that despite difficult circumstances, you can take responsibility and be empowered. 

Youth Leadership Council - Each year, many Washington Youth Tour winners in Alabama interview for an opportunity to represent our state on NRECA’s annual Youth Leadership Council (YLC). 

The council is comprised of one student representative from each state that participates in NRECA’s Youth Leadership Conference. The students help direct the focus of youth programs and learn more extensive leadership skills. 

Alabama’s YLC Delegate will attend a special leadership conference in Washington, D.C., as well as the NRECA annual meeting. 


The Rules

1. This opportunity is open to all high school juniors (11th grade) attending school in Lawrence or Morgan counties, living in the Joe Wheeler EMC service territory with at least one parent or legal guardian being a member of Joe Wheeler EMC. 

2. At least one student will be selected from each school with qualifying applicants. Homeschooled and small private schools will be grouped together as one "school." If that student is unable to attend a runner-up will be selected to fill the spot from that school. Students interested in participating must complete an application and submit it to Michael Cornelison, JWEMC’s Youth Tour Coordinator. Applications must be completed fully and received by 4:30 p.m. on Monday, December 14, 2020. Students will be notified of their selection by mid-January 2021. Selected students must have the approval of your guidance counselor and/or principal. Family members of JWEMC employees are not eligible to apply. 

3. Students selected must attend all JWEMC Youth Tour functions. Failure to attend all portions of the Montgomery trip will make a student ineligible for the Washington Youth Tour and a runner-up will be selected to attend.

4. Before the Montgomery Youth Tour, all 15 students attending will interview to be selected as one of five winners of an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. in June. These interviews will be held at the JWEMC Trinity office on President's Day. The five Washington Youth Tour students will be selected based on their applications, interviews, participation, and cooperation during the Montgomery Youth Tour. The students selected for the Washington Youth Tour will be informed after returning from Montgomery. 

5. All decisions made by the selection committee are final.

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