Sofia Coley of Blountstown and Korbin Haller of Graceville were among nearly 1,700 high school students from 43 states who participated in the National Rural Electric Cooperative Youth Tour held June 10-15, 2017, in Washington, D.C. Coley and Haller were sponsored by West Florida Electric Cooperative (WFEC) and represented Blountstown High School (Coley) and Graceville High School (Haller). Drew Willis, Blountstown High School, also participated in the trip as a representative of the Florida Rural Electric Cooperatives Association. Willis is the grandson of WFEC Trustee, Ellis Nichols, and he competed in a separate essay competition held solely for the children and grandchildren of WFEC employees and board members. The winner of this essay competition is selected as the Youth Tour representative for the Florida Rural Electric Cooperatives Association.
“Before being chosen to participate in the Youth Tour, I had never heard of the program before. I knew from the start that it was a great opportunity, but I didn’t know the full extent of what I would be a part of. During the weeks leading up to Youth Tour, in casual conversation, I realized several people I knew had been on the tour. They had nothing but good things to say about it and great memories to share,” said Youth Tour representative, Sofia Coley. 99064001
While in Washington, the students learned first-hand what it is like to be involved in politics, how our government operates and about how and why electric co-ops were formed. One highlight of the trip included meeting their elected representatives in the U.S. House and Senate. They toured Arlington National Cemetery, the Capitol, and Mount Vernon. Students also visited various monuments and memorials including the Viet Nam, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt and more. They also enjoyed the U.S. Marine Corps Band Sunset Parade; and a boat cruise and a dance on the Potomac River. They also had the opportunity to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture, D.C.’s newest museum.
“On the trip I met many amazing people, learned so much about our country, and stepped out of my comfort zone, meeting and talking to students from all over the country. I made wonderful memories and gained even greater patriotism than I had before. I am truly so thankful that West Florida Electric Cooperative gave me the opportunity of a lifetime and allowed me to grow so much as a person in the week I spent in our nation’s capital. The Youth Tour is an outstanding program and I would highly encourage any student to participate, if they are able,” said Coley.
Recently, I was given the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. for the annual Youth Tour. From the moment our plane landed, I knew that within a few days, my life would be forever impacted. The memories made along the way are memories that I will forever hold close. I would like to take the chance to thank West Florida Electric and Florida Electric Cooperatives Association for everything they did for me and for allowing me to have had the chance to go on this life changing trip,” said Drew Willis. 85830001
The Youth Tour program is open to all high school juniors whose parents or guardians are members of West Florida Electric Cooperative. Each high school within WFEC’s service area selects a representative for the State Youth Tour in the fall of each year. The selected representatives then go on to compete for the two slots available for the National Youth Tour. The Youth Tour program is also a scholarship opportunity for area students. One $4,000 scholarship to Chipola College is awarded to a participant from each county served by WFEC.
"The Washington, D.C. Youth Tour was the experience of a lifetime. It was amazing to see the Capitol, the White House, Mount Vernon, museums and countless other landmarks in person. This tour brought a greater clarity to my educational goals and what I will aspire to be one day,” said Korbin Haller.
“While exploring D.C. with new friends was fun, I think the most important thing the Youth Tour did for me was teach several important lessons on not only being a good person, but a responsible American. In times as divisive as these, it’s important to remind ourselves that even when we disagree with each other, we’re all American and we want what’s best for our country. Understanding and respecting the views of our fellow citizens is what made our country great to begin with, and it’s something that the people of all nations should strive for,” he continued. 97915001
If you will be a junior during the 2017-2018 school year, see your school’s guidance counselor for more information about the Youth Tour or contact WFEC Youth Tour Coordinator, Candace Croft at email@example.com