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Co-ops send students to D.C.

More than 1,600 students took to the nation’s capital and among them were two young men from the Northern Plains and Dakota Valley service areas.

Cole Christensen, 16, is the son of Frank and Laurie Christensen, Courtenay. He attended the Electric Cooper-ative Youth Tour in Washington, D.C., as a representative of Northern Plains Electric Cooperative.

Jayden Conant, 16, is the son of Clint and Darcie Knudsen, Marion, and Kyle Conant, West Fargo, N.D. He attended the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour in Washington, D.C., as a representative of Dakota Valley Electric Cooperative.

“My favorite part of the trip was meeting kids from all across the United States,” Christensen said. “We went to Arlington National Cemetery and saw the changing of the guard and all the graves of men and women who gave their lives for this country.”

The Electric Cooperative Youth Tour celebrated its 50th anniversary June 14-20, and North Dakota’s electric cooperatives sent a record 15 students. For the first time, Dakota Valley Electric Cooperative, Edgeley and Milnor, N.D., sponsored its first student. Cass County Electric Cooperative, Fargo, sponsored two students. The group learned about the U.S. government, history and electric cooperatives.

To earn a seat on the all-expense-paid Youth Tour, North Dakota students entered an essay-writing contest and answered the following question: “Many North Dakota electric cooperatives are or will soon be celebrating their 75th anniversaries. Describe how rural electrification and rural electric cooperatives have contributed to the quality of life in North Dakota and your local community.”

While on the annual tour, students participated in leadership training, engaged in one-on-one conversations with elected officials, jump-started their national peer network and toured Washington, D.C. New to this year was a partnership with Points of Light and GenerationOn to launch a student service-project grant program. One winner from each state will be selected to receive a $500 grant to fund an existing service project or jump-start a new one.

Pamela Clark-Stein, director of education and member services for the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives, said the students gained a firsthand understanding of the legislative process and made connections with others from across the country that will last a lifetime.

“Our youth are the country’s future. Through the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour program, we can help give them the tools to succeed,” she said. “As we celebrate this Youth Tour’s special anniversary, we continue planning for the future. We are committed to continuing the Youth Tour a tradition for another 50 years.”

Education is a fundamental principle of electric cooperatives. Boards of directors and managers say they believe it is imperative to help students understand the democratic process and gain the skills necessary to become tomorrow’s leaders. By sponsoring the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour, North Dakota’s electric cooperatives are helping high school students experience government firsthand by visiting Washington, D.C., meeting their representatives and senators, and building a better understanding of our country and their role as engaged citizens.

“Representing my co-op for the 50th anniversary of the Youth Tour was awesome all by itself,” Christensen said. “But learning what electric cooperatives are doing for not only our country, but the world is eye opening. They are bringing electricity to places that haven’t even heard of a cell phone.”

For more information about the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour, visit or, or call the member services representative at a local distribution cooperative.