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Warm welcome in Congress enhances Youth Tour experience

      Students who work hard to do well in school tend to have more opportunities available to help them excel in their education and succeed in life. One of the best opportunities for rural students in Mississippi is the Electric Power Associations of Mississippi Youth Leadership program.
     The highlight of the program is the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour, which takes students on a week-long, jam-packed visit to Washington, D.C. Each student is chosen for the all-expenses-paid trip through a competitive process sponsored by his or her local electric power association. (Meet our 2016 Youth Tour participants on page 13 of this issue.)
    What elevates our Youth Tour beyond simply a series of stops at memorials and museums is the warm, personal treatment our Mississippi group receives during their visit to Capitol Hill. U.S. senators and representatives lead extremely busy lives, as do most all elected officials. Yet Mississippi’s congressional delegation has made every effort to meet personally with our Youth Tour student group every year since the Youth Leadership program began 30 years ago.
    This year all of Mississippi’s senators and representatives were able to meet with the students, for which we are grateful.
    Not only that, but Rep. Gregg Harper personally led our group, as he has done the past several years, onto the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives during a recess. He gave 64 Mississippi students, some of whom had never even traveled outside the state, the privilege of standing in the room not only where members of Congress debate, but where the President delivers the annual State of the Union address to the nation, where world leaders speak before Congress and, in September 2015, where Pope Francis of the Holy See addressed a joint meeting of the House and Senate.
    In his speech, Pope Francis referred to America as “a land of dreams ... that lead to action, participation and commitment.” His words express exactly what we hope our Youth Leadership program instills in its student participants: the desire to act as leaders as they take part in and commit to making their communities, state and nation better places to live for everyone.
    These students are our future citizens. Their dreams could open up possibilities and options for the future that we adults might never imagine. They deserve every educational opportunity we can offer them.
    We appreciate the encouragement given the Youth Tour students by our state’s congressional delegation. Mississippi’s elected officials have a long history of being supportive of electric power associations as well. We enjoy a productive working relationship on behalf of our members with all elected officials, from local to federal levels.
    Officials trust us to represent the best interests of all our members regarding electric service and, increasingly, community development. The last thing any lawmaker wants is to support proposals that could impact the safety, affordability or reliabilty of the electric service we provide. Yet, if we are not diligent in monitoring legislative proposals and identifying any unintended consequences, it could happen.
    Elected officials have come to rely on electric power associations to keep them informed of potentially negative byproducts of legislative proposals. They trust us as member-owned electric cooperatives whose sole mission is service to members. Not profits for investors.
    Congratulations to the 2016 Youth Leadership program participants. I hope they long remember the friends they’ve made not only among themselves and with us, but in Congress as well.

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