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2016 Washington Youth Tour

Nearly 140 high school seniors from across Tennessee returned last week from the 2016 Washington Youth Tour.

The popular event included sightseeing, visits with elected officials and lots of fun meeting peers from across Tennessee and the nation. Delegates earned their spots on the Youth Tour for writing winning short stories titled “Electric Cooperatives: Powering Everyday Life.” In their winning entries, the talented young writers described how member-owned, nonprofit electric co-ops strengthen their local communities and improve lives across their service areas while providing safe, reliable, affordable energy.

“We take great pride in recognizing the best and brightest from across the state,” said Todd Blocker, director of member relations for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and tour director. “By recognizing their accomplishments through programs like the Washington Youth Tour, we show these leaders of tomorrow that their hometown electric co-op is more than a utility provider; these students are active members of their community and fully invested in its prosperity.”

For more than 50 years, the Washington Youth Tour has taken students from electric co-op service areas to our nation’s capital to learn more about our country and the cooperative business model. The annual event is coordinated by local electric cooperatives, the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). This year’s Youth Tour involved 1,700 students from 43 states.

“Young Americans given the opportunity to come to Washington, D.C., by their electric cooperatives experience a life-changing event,” said NRECA Interim CEO Jeffrey Connor. “They talk to their elected officials in person, connect to our nation’s rich history and have a hands-on experience with democracy. Youth Tour enriches their understanding of the political process and the vital importance of direct engagement. As a result, they return to their communities with a deeper commitment to the communities they represent.”

On their 2016 visit, Tennessee’s Youth Tour delegates saw the White House and memorials to past presidents Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt as well as monuments honoring the sacrifices of veterans of World War II and the Vietnam and Korean Wars. During visits to the museums of the Smithsonian Institution, the touring Tennesseans saw and experienced natural, historical and artistic treasures. Other fun stops included historic homes of former presidents — George Washington’s Mount Vernon and Jefferson’s Monticello — as well as Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, the Hard Rock Cafe and a boat cruise down the Potomac River. Among other Youth Tour highlights were a solemn and sobering visit to Arlington National Cemetery where the group laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns and a stirring Sunset Parade performance by the U.S. Marine Drum and Bugle Corps and Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon.

The group was welcomed to the U.S. Capitol by Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker and members of the Tennessee Congressional delegation who posed for photos and answered questions.

Hope Kelley from Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative, Katie Torrance from Volunteer Energy Cooperative and Kaitlyn Springer from Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative were awarded $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000 Robert McCarty Memorial Scholarships for having the first, second and third place papers of the more than 10,000 papers submitted across the state. McCarty was an employee of Volunteer Energy Cooperative and long-time chaperone on the annual youth tour. McCarty lost a battle with cancer in 2015, and sponsoring cooperatives renamed the scholarship in honor of his love for young people.

Megan Lewis, a senior from Tri-State Electric Membership Corporation, was awarded the $10,000 Cooperative Youth Ambassador Scholarship. Lewis was a 2015 delegate of the Washington Youth Tour. In the year following the tour, delegates who remained engaged with their sponsoring cooperative and completed certain community service requirements were eligible for the scholarship. Lewis’s name was randomly selected from among the 70 delegates from across the state who completed the requirements.

“Our commitment to community is what sets cooperatives apart from other businesses,” said David Callis, CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “The Washington Youth Tour is one way we show the youth of our service area that their co-op is more than their electricity provider. We genuinely care about the prosperity of our communities, and that includes providing special opportunities for these exceptional students and preparing them for future success.”

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Youth Tour inspires students, fosters civility in an era lacking it

By Justin LaBerge

On a mild Monday evening less than a week after Mardi Gras, 18-year-old Collin Craig was sitting in a downtown New Orleans hotel room talking to himself. He wasn’t having some sort of psychological episode; he was practicing an important speech.

The next day Collin would stand on a stage in a giant exposition hall at the New Orleans Convention Center. Behind him would be a dazzling array of video screens, some projecting his image larger than life. In front of him would be a sea of 6,000 faces, all several decades older than him, and all quietly waiting to hear what this high school senior from Slocomb, Ala., had to say.

Tuesday morning arrived, and Collin stood backstage in the green room waiting. The emcee called his name, music started playing, and Collin climbed up the steps and into the spotlight. He stood at the podium, and, reading from the kind of teleprompter that’s typically reserved for presidents, told the crowd gathered for the 74th annual meeting of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) about the journey he’d taken in the past year.

A year earlier, Collin had been selected by Wiregrass Electric Cooperative to participate in the 2015 Electric Cooperative Youth Tour.

Every June, nearly 1,700 students from electric cooperatives across the country, including 134 from Tennessee, converge in our nation’s capital for the Youth Tour. Students spend the week visiting monuments and museums, meeting Senators and members of Congress from their state, learning about leadership and the cooperative business model, and forging lifelong friendships with fellow Youth Tour participants from far-away places who were strangers just a few days before.

Each of the 44 states that participate in the program selects one member of their delegation to represent it on the Youth Leadership Council. Members of the council come back to Washington for additional leadership development experiences, serve as youth ambassadors at events hosted by their state’s electric co-ops and represent their states at the annual meeting of America’s electric cooperatives.

The Youth Leadership Council elects one of its members to be the group’s spokesperson and deliver an address at the annual meeting. Last year, they selected Collin.

In his speech, Collin told the audience, “there is a bigger picture that can only be reached through the actions we take to make the world a better place. We can’t do that by ourselves. It’s a collective effort from the leaders in our community who take action and look beyond their own lives.”

When he concluded his remarks, he was given a standing ovation and NRECA President Mel Coleman praised Collin and his 43 fellow members of the Youth Leadership Council.

Though Collin was the man in the spotlight at the annual meeting, all Youth Leadership Council members are leaders in their schools, communities and extracurricular activities.

Shantelle Des Marais, a freshly minted high school graduate from Pipestone, Minn., is one of them.

As a three-sport athlete and competitive dancer, Shantelle keeps a busy schedule. Though she is active in her community, coaching children enrolled in beginner gymnastics and track programs at the local rec center, she had never really paid attention to politics.

Last year, she saw a flyer for a program sponsored by her local electric cooperative, Sioux Valley Energy, called EmPower Youth Leadership. She talked to her school counselor and applied for the program.

After completing the program, she was selected to be a member of the Minnesota Youth Tour delegation, and was later chosen to be the state’s Youth Leadership Council delegate.

“At the start of this whole process, I didn’t even know what a co-op was at all,” Shantelle said. “Now I’ve learned so much about the model and the Seven Cooperative Principles, and it reminds me of how I’d like our country to run. I wish we could all keep those principles in mind and be good to one another.”

Her experience with Youth Tour and the Youth Leadership Council inspired the 18-year-old to get involved in her first presidential election. Not only did Shantelle caucus for the first time, she was selected to be a county delegate.

“The best thing about this whole experience is that it has opened my eyes to different possibilities,” she said.

Another young woman who participated in this eye-opening program was Emma DeMaranville from Tonganoxie, Kan.

Emma was familiar with her local electric cooperative, but had no idea how many different types of cooperatives there are and the impact they’ve had throughout the U.S. and the world.

Her grandmother had seen the opportunities other students had gained through the Youth Tour program and urged Emma to apply.

An active member of Family Career and Community Leaders of America who also participates in forensics, debate and theatre, Emma was selected to represent Leavenworth-Jefferson Electric as a member of the Kansas Youth Tour delegation.

“Every kid on Youth Tour has big aspirations, and their goals inspired me to do something with my career and future that could make an impact,” Emma said. “Being in the nation’s capital with some of the most passionate and intelligent people I have ever met made me feel like I could do anything.”

One common theme mentioned by all three of these young leaders was the need to cooperate, be respectful and find common ground to solve problems.

Collin recounted the many spirited conversations he had with other YLC delegates on important issues. “There were times when we might have different opinions, but there were never any fights, rivalries or hatreds. In fact, we used these debates to strengthen each other. We learned how to unite. Diversity doesn’t cause adversity, it can demolish it,” he said.

Emma said she’s gained a better understanding of other people, and the similarities and differences in their lives. “I want to do bipartisan work to make a difference for the people around me. Youth Tour helped me see the struggles others face, and has instilled in me a desire to create change on a global level.”

Shantelle said her experiences have helped her realize that great leaders are real people, too. “You go to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial or the Lincoln Memorial, and you think about the great things these leaders did and how they helped me get where I am today. It always feels like something so far off. But then I got to meet my Senators and you realize that they’re real people and maybe I could do this some day.”

All three of these students plan to attend public universities in their home states this fall, and say the experiences they’ve gained over the past year have influenced what they’ll study and how they plan to live their lives after college.

“If you had asked me a year ago what I wanted to do with my life, I would’ve said ‘I don’t know. Probably something with computers.’ I still plan to major in computer science, but that’s just the foundation for many different things Youth Tour has inspired me to pursue,” Collin said.

Youth Tour is a joint investment made by your local electric cooperative, the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. When Youth Tour participants arrive in Washington each June, the expectation is that they will learn from our political leaders and be inspired to do great things in their communities.

Based on the wisdom and maturity displayed by Collin, Shantelle and Emma, our future is certainly bright, and our current elected leaders could learn as much from the students as the students learn from them.

Justin LaBerge writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.

 

  • How do co-op youth programs impact our local communities? Read [link or reference article] to find out. <IMAGE>

 

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Meriwether Lewis EC Helps DCDL Media Expand Services

DCDL Media of Waverly is getting a little help from their friends at Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative in the form of a zero-interest loan to grow their services for Humphreys County. The loan is made possible by MLEC’s Revolving Loan Fund (RLF).

Owned by Connie and Dean Duke, DCDL Media has been serving the area for several years. MLEC loan funds will be used to complete a project several years in the making to help insure quality emergency broadcasting for the citizens of Humphreys County using WQMV AM1060. With MLEC’s help, DCDL will purchase the FM license and equipment needed to communicate important news and safety information to area residents during emergency situations.

As the loan is paid back over ten years, MLEC can loan it out again for other economic and community development projects. The RLF was established in 1996 with co-op funds and a grant from Rural Utilities Service. Since its inception, the RLF has awarded almost $846,000 in the MLEC service area and is in support of the cooperative’s goal to help local communities grow.

Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative, your trusted source for safe, low-cost, reliable electricity, is non-profit and member owned, serving over 33,500 meters in Hickman, Houston, Humphreys, Lewis and Perry counties. Visit www.mlec.com to learn more.

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Become a Co-op Voter

When was the last time you voted?

As member-owned electric cooperatives, voting is already in our DNA. It’s how we maintain an electric utility which is responsive to the consumers it serves. But voting also plays a crucial part in our representative democracy. Federal, state and local elections offer an opportunity to exercise a civic responsibility — to select the best leaders for our communities.

Yet in places all over America, even those served by electric cooperatives, citizens aren’t exercising that right.

In the 2012 national elections, voter turnout dropped overall, but the decline in rural counties was 18 percent—twice that of the nation as a whole.

And when voters miss the chance to vote, they also lose the opportunity to communicate their concern to our leaders about the issues that matter to us, where we work, live, and raise families.

Reliable electricity, access to rural broadband and the quality of our healthcare system are just a few issues we all care about. Still, they only become priorities if enough people show elected officials that they are paying attention. Registering to vote and voting are the most effective ways to send this message.

When we go to the polls with the cooperative principle of “Concern for Community” in mind, we instantly improve our political system. It’s a system designed to produce a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” People like you and me.

I’d like you to join me in a new initiative to get every eligible person registered to vote—you, me, our family and friends—and take the pledge to BECOME A CO-OP VOTER.

America’s electric cooperatives are launching a campaign to help get out the vote and insert issues important to co-ops into the public discussion. Called “Co-ops Vote,” this effort will help boost voter turnout in areas served by cooperatives across the country to ensure that our voices are heard loud and clear every day, and especially on Election Day.

Here’s what you can do to help. Visit the Co-ops Vote web site, WWW.VOTE.COOP, and take the pledge to BECOME A CO-OP VOTER to support your community and electric cooperative when casting your vote in 2016. The web site will give you information on your elected officials and candidates, the voter registration process, election dates and locations, and background about eight key co-op issues we want our elected leaders to understand: rural broadband access, hiring and honoring veterans, low-income energy assistance, cyber-security, water regulation, rural health care access, affordable and reliable energy, and renewable energy.

Co-ops Vote is a non-partisan program developed by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives. With 42 million members across the nation, electric co-ops are a powerful voice on national issues that have a local impact.

If you have any questions, please visit WWW.VOTE.COOP. I hope to see you at the polls!

 

 

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Be a Co-op Voter

When was the last time you voted?

As member-owned electric cooperatives, voting is already in our DNA. It’s how we maintain an electric utility which is responsive to the consumers it serves. But voting also plays a crucial part in our representative democracy. Federal, state and local elections offer an opportunity to exercise a civic responsibility – to select the best leaders for our communities.

Yet in places all over America, even those served by electric cooperatives, citizens aren’t exercising that right.

In the 2012 national elections, voter turnout dropped overall, but the decline in rural counties was 18 percent—twice that of the nation as a whole.

And when voters miss the chance to vote, they also lose the opportunity to communicate their concern to our leaders about the issues that matter to us, where we work, live, and raise families.

Reliable electricity, access to rural broadband and the quality of our healthcare system are just a few issues we all care about. Still, they only become priorities if enough people show elected officials that they are paying attention. Registering to vote and voting are the most effective ways to send this message.

When we go to the polls with the cooperative principle of “Concern for Community” in mind, we instantly improve our political system. It’s a system designed to produce a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” People like you and me.

I’d like you to join me in a new initiative to get every eligible person registered to vote—you, me, our family and friends—and take the pledge to BECOME A CO-OP VOTER.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives have joined America’s electric cooperatives in launching a campaign to help get out the vote and insert issues important to co-ops into the public discussion. Called “Co-ops Vote,” this effort will help boost voter turnout in areas served by cooperatives across the country to ensure that our voices are heard loud and clear every day, and especially on Election Day.

Here’s what you can do to help. Visit the Co-ops Vote web site, WWW.VOTE.COOP, and take the pledge to BECOME A CO-OP VOTER to support your community and electric cooperative when casting your vote in 2016. The web site will give you information on your elected officials and candidates, the voter registration process, election dates and locations, and background about eight key co-op issues we want our elected leaders to understand: rural broadband access, hiring and honoring veterans, low-income energy assistance, cybersecurity, water regulation, rural health care access, affordable and reliable energy, and renewable energy.

Co-ops Vote is a non-partisan program developed by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives. With 42 million members across the nation, electric co-ops are a powerful voice on national issues that have a local impact.

If you have any questions, please visit WWW.VOTE.COOP or contact your local electric cooperative. I hope to see you at the polls!

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MTEMC launches new charitable foundation

Middle Tennessee Electric today launched its new charitable foundation SharingChange. The foundation gives members the opportunity to easily give to local charitable organizations.

The move streamlines the cooperative?s charitable efforts and gives members more options on how they can contribute to their communities.

“Over the last 13 years, Middle Tennessee Electric members have donated more than $8 million to over 550 local nonprofit organizations in the four-county service area served by MTEMC,” said Chris Jones, MTEMC President. “Every penny that members donate, 100 percent, goes back to those communities through local charitable organizations.”

A highlight of the new program is the different ways to give. Members can now round up their bill to the nearest dollar; or they can add a fixed amount to each monthly bill; or they can do both.

“We recognized over the years, these were additional options our members wanted in their charitable giving,” said Jones. “For pennies each month, the collective impact on our communities is significant.”

Averaging about $6 dollars per year, the rounding of the bill is the easiest option. If a member?s bill is $48.50, the bill is rounded up to $49, and that 50 cents is contributed to SharingChange.

“For much less than a cup of coffee a month, our members are changing the lives of their neighbors,” Jones added.

Past grant recipients and their programs included helping fulfill medical needs of local senior citizens, student scholarships, helping control the pet population and even funding local veterans; programs designed to help build camaraderie and find productive, safe ways to deal with conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder.

To learn more about the program, or to begin participating in SharingChange, visit www.SharingChange.org.

“I encourage you to take the steps to do absolutely the easiest good thing, you’ll ever do,” Jones said.

Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation is a member-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperative providing electricity to more than 210,000 residential and business members in Williamson, Wilson, Rutherford and Cannon counties.

For more information, please contact MTEMC Communications Coordinator Josh Clendenen at 615-494-1071 or 615-516-5020.

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Meriwether Lewis EC teaches students about safety

Waverly Elementary School first graders learned valuable lessons in electric safety on Feb. 26. As part of Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative’s commitment to safety and education, Material Handler Alan Carter, left, and Energy Specialist Nathan Wagner, right, used the Electric Junction demonstration to show students how to be safe around electric lines and equipment.

FPU-sponsored coat drive nets community generosity

“We are overwhelmed by the generosity of this community,” says Fayetteville Public Utilities CEO and General Manager Britt Dye referring to the results of the FPU-sponsored coat drive.

FPU’s Coat Drive netted 462 coats and jackets of all sizes being donated to two local charity organizations who will assist with distribution to those in need: Hands of Mercy Outreach Center and Clothe Our Kids.

“At FPU we have interaction with many people on a daily basis,” says FPU CEO and General Manager Britt Dye. “On occasion, we learn about their financial hardships and how it hinders them from paying their bills and providing for their families’ basic needs. With this in mind, we felt led to organize the coat donation drive this year.”

“These two charity organizations operate on the generosity of those who give,” says Dye, “and we appreciate everyone for what they were able to donate.”

FPU and David West Partner to Benefit Good Sam

For many years, Fayetteville Public Utilities has sponsored a community-wide food drive, Harvest of Hope, which benefits the Good Samaritan Association of Lincoln County by helping stock their shelves for the following year. This year’s donations have exceeded those of years past, and one reason for the increase in donations is due to an FPU employee’s idea to bring hope to other families in the local community. The employee just wanted to bless others, because there is no greater feeling in the world than to bless someone else.

The FPU employee wanted had a goal of donating 1,000 cans of food to the Good Samaritan Association of Lincoln County. When he mentioned the idea about donating 1,000 cans to fellow employees, the idea took flight. FPU employees rallied and enlisted additional help from David West, manager of Gerald’s Foodland in Fayetteville, TN, and he was more than happy to assist. West was able to secure a lower purchase price for the canned food items for the employees and was generous enough to donate close to a third of those canned items. Between the employees of FPU and West’s donations, the overwhelming total donation of cans resulting from the partnership came to 2,280.

At the end of FPU’s 2015 food drive, 3,834 items have been donated to the local food bank.

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Co-ops Vote

(NEW ORLEANS) — The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) today launched a major initiative to enhance voter engagement. The goal of the “Co-ops Vote” campaign is to boost voter turnout in areas served by cooperatives by encouraging electric co-op employees and their consumer members to exercise one of their most basic rights—the right to vote.

“America’s electric cooperatives are leaders in the communities they serve throughout the country with a powerful sense of their civic duty,” said NRECA Interim CEO Jeffrey Connor. “Co-ops Vote focuses elected leaders on the people who are most invested in the success of their own communities.  With 42 million members across the nation, electric co-ops are a powerful voice on national issues that have a local impact.  We want to be sure that voice is always heard, especially on Election Day.”

Working in collaboration with states and local co-ops, this non-partisan campaign will educate and engage all voters on important issues, such as ensuring continued access to reliable electricity, promoting co-ops’ development of innovative renewable energy solutions, and expanding broadband coverage throughout rural America.

Co-ops Vote will provide a wide variety of tools to its more than 900, not-for-profit members to help educate and engage employees and communities, including voter registration information, candidate information and a campaign video. Co-ops are urged to take simple steps, such as encouraging employees to register to vote, hosting voter registration drives at co-op offices, and partnering with local civic groups to plan voter registration efforts.

For more information, visit www.vote.coop and follow #CoopsVote.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which provide service to 42 million people in 47 states.