The 2012 National Institute on Cooperative Education (NICE) Conference was held July 28- August 1 on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. The theme for this year’s conference was “The View is NICE at the Top.”

Tennessee 4-H was represented at this event by Lynsey Jones and Holly Nehls, both are Senior 4-H members from Knox County. These students were awarded the trip as runners-up in the Level II leadership and citizenship competition at Tennessee 4-H Congress in Nashville last April.

FFA was represented by Cheyenne Hanloh, Daniel Deas, Spencer Sanders, and Station Camp High School Agriculture Teacher – Brad Kirkham. These students were selected because of their achievements in the State FFA Star Agribusiness and State Proficiency Competition which was held in Gatlinburg last April as well.

The NICE Conference is intended to provide a deeper understanding of cooperatives to the youth participants who are the cooperative members, customers, employees, directors, and leaders of tomorrow. Participants gained an understanding of how cooperatives differ from other business forms and will hear cooperative success stories in both the agricultural and non-agricultural sectors. In a team setting, attendees will serve as managers of a simulated cooperative store, competing with other stores in their market area for sales and profit. Teams will also analyze case studies, develop their own student-run cooperative or STUCO and participate in team-building and leadership development activities. The closing session will recognize the teams that have been the top performers in various conference activities. The Youth Scholar Program provides both educational and social activities.

The youth and adults attending the NICE conference also toured the McCormick Farm & Workshop in Raphine, VA. Cyrus McCormick, founder of the McCormick Harvest Machine Company which became part of International Harvester Company is credited as the “inventor” of the mechanical reaper. The group also visited the Natural Bridge and the Natural Bridge Caverns all located in Virginia.

The trip was sponsored by the Tennessee Council of Cooperatives (TCC). Mr. Todd Blocker, Director of Member Relations at TECA and a member of the TCC Board of Directors accompanied the students on the trip. Youth from Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and South Dakota also attended the conference.