Youth Tour 2022

Youth Tour students meet with legislators during a private panel discussion.

At Delaware Electric Cooperative, our history is important to us. It is because of a committed group of farmers in 1936 that we have become a household name and an industry leader. It was their effort, their dedication and their belief in the cooperative system that laid the foundation for the utility DEC is today. Still, as important as that history is, it is equally important to look to the future, specifically the future generations of Co-op supporters, members and employees. That is why programs such as the annual Youth Tour are so necessary for the understanding and continuation of cooperatives everywhere.

Started in 1957, the NRECA (National Rural Electric Cooperative Association) Youth Tour has served as an opportunity for high school students from across the country whose families are cooperative members to learn about the cooperative business model, as well as how to effectively get involved in their local communities. DEC’s Manager of Public Relations and Community Outreach Lauren Irby says the experience helps students broaden their knowledge of the world around them while also helping to hone lifelong intrapersonal skills.

“It’s a focus on co-op education, grassroots education, civic engagement; learning about being an active member in your community and learning what it means to be a leader,” Irby says.

From June 20 to June 24, Irby chaperoned the three student-applicants selected from DEC’s service area to participate in this year’s Youth Tour in Williamsburg, VA. As part of the experience, students engaged with fellow participants from Maryland and Virginia during a visit to the Air and Space Museum, tours of Colonial Williamsburg and the Jamestown Settlement, a Co-op 101 Course and a private civic education session with local legislators, among many more events. Irby says Youth Tour adequately balances education with fun, allowing students to make great memories while also imparting useful information and life lessons.

“Youth Tour is important for the students because they are able to see, not only the history of our nation and meet legislators, and join their peers who are leaders in their communities, but they’re also able to see the benefits of what it means to be a member of a co-op. We’re able to show them their membership is important, and their involvement is important,” Irby says. “For us, it’s a great way to give back to our members. It’s a great way to give back to the community. It’s a great way to tell the co-op story, through providing an enriching experience for the students.”