Inspired & Elevated Leadership

Cooperative Youth Tour is an opportunity to take part in a program that promotes life skills that today’s generation value, including building relationships, developing leadership skills and preparing them for what’s next, is exactly what FreeState wants to accomplish for these delegates.

Two Tonganoxie students attended the 59th Annual Electric Cooperative Youth Tour June 13-20 with more than 1,800 peers from across the nation.

Delegates toured the White House, the U.S. Capitol, the Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Smithsonian museums, Mt. Vernon, Arlington National Cemetery, the National Cathedral among other memorials and historical sites. They saw the pandas at the National Zoo, participated in a simulation at the National Law Enforcement Museum, took in a Nationals baseball game and a show at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. 

As part of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s National Youth Day on June 17, all state groups heard keynote speaker Mike Schlappi, a four-time Paralympic Medalist and two-time world wheelchair basketball champion.

Jake Edholm
Tonganoxie High School

Senator Pat Roberts was a strong source of inspiration. Talking to him about co-ops and Kansas issues was enlightening as well as rewarding. It is also pretty inspiring knowing I’m part of the best co-op in the State of Kansas.

Sen. Pat Roberts with Jake Edholm.

Over the course of seven days, I had some of the most exceptional experiences of my life. From 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., we were adventuring. The itinerary was chock-full of museums, activities, and tours. We visited everything from the Holocaust Memorial Museum to Fort McHenry. Every day was a new adventure, whether it was meeting our representatives or getting an in-depth view of how an electric cooperative operates. I didn’t think about it much on tour, but afterward, I realized that FreeState invested in me and Payton. It made me feel incredibly proud knowing that I got to represent the cooperative members in Washington, D.C. There were countless great things about the tour, but the best part about Youth Tour was the people I met. We went into the trip 40 strangers, but I now have friends that will last forever. Not only did I get to see some of the most moving places on the planet, but I got to see those monuments with great people. That’s what I will take away most from this trip: the people. I got to meet kids from all over Kansas and all over the country. They all have had a lasting impact on me, and I think I came out of the Youth Tour a better person than I went into it. Not only does the cooperative provide electricity where commercial electric won’t, but they also offer programs like the Youth Tour that leave lasting impacts.


Payton Lynn
Tonganoxie High School

Every single person on this trip has been an inspiration to me. Meeting so many people from different backgrounds has shown me that I have grown more than I ever thought I could in just one short week. My peers have pushed me to think about issues in a completely different way. 

Payton and Jake at a Nationals baseball game. 

When I first found out I was going on Youth Tour, I was nervous about going across the country with 40 strangers. Youth Tour introduced me to 40 smart, charismatic and funny people from Kansas and Hawaii. We started our tour as strangers, traveled as friends and came back as a family, which is something that I could never have imagined.

I knew from others that this trip would be life-changing, but I was skeptical of how one week could change my life. Now I realize how. I got to experience new things. Among my favorites was seeing Hello, Dolly! at the Kennedy Center and touring the Capitol Building.

Meeting Senator Pat Roberts and Congressman Steve Watkins was inspiring. Before this experience, I had never considered a career in politics. Seeing firsthand what kind of an impact I can have by putting my mind to something has made me reconsider some of my future goals.

My week in D.C. was the best. Whether it was visiting the Smithsonian Museums, touring the White House, or going to what seemed like every memorial in the D.C. area, every minute of our trip included learning, critical thinking, laughter, and relentless joy. Youth Tour taught me to think in ways I never had before and even influenced new opinions about things that are going on in our country. My opportunity was an unforgettable experience, and undoubtedly, the trip of a lifetime!