For most teens, summertime means sleeping late or getting a tan by the pool, but a special group of Tennessee students is making the most of their break in Washington DC before their pivotal senior years of high school.
Aaron Lay grew up on a farm and never thought he would be a Washington insider, but now that’s exactly what he is.
“It’s really important for our youth to see history first hand and the monuments and all the museums and the networking opportunities,” said the 2017 Washington Youth Tour participant.
Last summer Lay was a delegate with the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.
He won that all-expenses paid leadership trip last summer by entering an essay contest.
“Nine hundred words can truly change your life and with the youth tour, I couldn’t be more thankful for what it’s done for my life,” said Lay.
Since 1957, more than 6,000 high school juniors from across Tennessee have participated in the Washington Youth Tour.
Delegates spend a week meeting with lawmakers, and they get behind the scenes tours of DC and historic sites like Monticello
“We’ll go to every single monument including the Capitol and White House. So it’s a trip on steroids,” said TECA Vice President of Member Relations Todd Blocker.
Blocker is getting ready for this summer’s trip which kicks off next week.
“We call it a tour of duty because you are actually out there seeing touching and experiencing Washington like you never would any other time,” said Blocker.
Breanna Bushman and 135 other delegates from Tennessee are participate this summer.
“It means more than just a free trip. It means breaking me out of my shell a little bit and forcing me to interact with people I wouldn’t interact with on a day to day basis,” said Bushman.
It also gives delegates a chance to understand how a non-profit, shareholder owned electric co-op works by providing electricity to areas of our state that aren’t urban centers.
The profits then go back into the system to drive down costs for customers.
Past Washington Youth Tour participants have gone on to be US Senators, and top CEOs including Apple’s CEO Tim Cook.
“The main thing we hope is that they will come back with a new inspiration of how they can serve their communities and go through and be better people,” said Blocker.
More than a million homes in Tennessee are powered by the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, and delegates who stay engaged after the Washington Youth Tour can also qualify for thousands of dollars in scholarship money for college.