Black River sent three rising high school seniors to Washington, D.C., June 13–18 for the annual Washington Youth Tour. After a rigorous application process, judges selected Emma Jane Gaulke of Camden, Sean P. McAlister of Sumter, and Jacob C. Reaves of Gable to attend the all-expense-paid trip. Black River employee James Moye served as a chaperone.
Gaulke, McAlister and Reaves joined 62 other students representing South Carolina’s electric cooperatives and participated in many activities during their five-day stay. The group visited several landmarks and museums including the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, the Smithsonian museums, and the Museum of the Marine Corps.
The students also participated in an evening boat cruise on the Potomac River, a ghost tour and an all-states dinner and dance party which hosted more than 1,700 students representing 44 states.
One of the most memorable activities was Capitol Hill Day, where students split up based on congressional delegation and visited their congressmen. At the conclusion of the visits, students got exclusive staff-led tours of the Capitol. After lunch, the group came back together for an opportunity to meet Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Tim Scott.
Temperatures hovered near three digits for most of the time, but students used the sweltering heat as an opportunity to put the cooperative principles into action. Upon arrival to Washington, D.C., the students formed the Soda Pop Co-op for the purpose of providing snacks and drinks at the lowest possible cost to members. Everyone opted to pay a small membership fee and once a Board was appointed and CEO hired, the Soda Pop Co-op was open for business.
After five days of meeting high demand for cheap bottled water and snacks, the Cooperative ended the week with a decent profit. Instead of dividing up the profit and distributing it back to members, the co-op voted to donate almost $40 to “End Polio Now” through Rotary International. The Gates Foundation, which has partnered with these organizations, matched the donation.
The 2015 Washington Youth Tour was the biggest yet and everybody felt like a family by the end of the week. After emotional goodbyes, the students returned home for the summer. Many of them are now completing projects for the R.D. Bennett Community Service Scholarship. The individual with a community service project that makes the biggest impact on his or her community will be awarded $5,000 toward college.
If you or somebody you know is interested in representing Black River on the 2016 Washington Youth Tour, check back here in early 2016 for information on how to apply. To be eligible, you must be a high school junior and your parent(s) or guardian must be a current member of Black River Electric Cooperative.