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VICE is a Good Thing for Cooperatives

MAY 2022

Virginia Del. Robert Orrock of Spotsylvania, far left, joins VICE participants at Graves Mountain Lodge.

Don’t be put off by the acronym. Cooperatives love VICE.

In this case, VICE is shorthand for the Virginia Institute on Cooperative Education, a yearly leadership conference that teaches high school students about co-ops and the cooperative business model. Hosted by the Virginia Cooperative Council, VICE has been held at Graves Mountain Lodge in Madison County, Va. since 1992.

This year, 32 students, many of them involved in 4-H and FFA, participated in the two-day event. After learning about their personality types, they split into four teams for a business simulation called “Who’s Minding the Store?” The idea is simple: Learn how to make difficult marketing and financial decisions and interpret the results through operating statements and financial reports.

“I knew this conference would look great on college applications and to help me see the business side of companies. I did not expect to learn so much, make so many new friends, or completely fall in love with the ‘Who’s Minding the Store?’ simulation,” says Emory Conner, whose family is a member of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative.

Based on testing and participation scores, five students earned college scholarships. They include Regan Jackson, representing Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, who was awarded a $1,500 scholarship and Katie Powell, representing Central Virginia Electric Cooperative, who received a $750 scholarship. Both plan to attend the North Carolina Cooperative Council’s Leadership Camp in June at Camp Monroe in Laurel Hill, N.C., with several VICE peers.

VICE is offered at no cost to students, thanks to member cooperative contributions of $350 per attendee. Experienced adult leaders from across the commonwealth also volunteer their time to help with this event.

Coming out of the pandemic, Mary Howell, VCC executive secretary, wants to boost attendance. “We’re aiming for 50 students in 2023.” She adds, “The council is proud to host an event that creates lasting memories that can influence future career choices.”