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Youthful Connections

Students learn about role of cooperatives on 2022 Youth Tour


by Steven Johnson, Staff Writer

In the garage of Community Electric Cooperative, the questions came fast and furiously. What is a crossarm? What is the No. 1 goal of line work? Why were cooperatives started?

Call it pop quiz, co-op style.

Jonathan Powell, lead lineman at Community Electric Cooperative, demonstrates pole skills. (Photo By: Steven Johnson)


About two dozen youths from Virginia, Maryland and Delaware stepped up to answer those questions as part of the 2022 Youth Tour, sponsored by the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives.

It served as a reminder that although the youths enjoyed some fun during the nearly five-day excursion, the heart of Youth Tour remains educating the next generation of members about the cooperative model.

“I’ve learned a lot of things I never would have found out otherwise,” says Carter Rees, a rising senior at Madison County High School in Virginia, who represented Rappahannock Electric Cooperative. “It’s a good experience to have.”

With lingering issues related to the pandemic and accommodations in Washington, D.C., the 2022 VMD Association tour focused on events in Hampton Roads and Tidewater Virginia.

On June 20, participants met in Richmond before busing to Norfolk for a visit to the botanical gardens and an evening cruise. The next day included a civics education lesson with a bipartisan group that included Delegates Jackie Glass (House District 89), Emily Brewer (House District 64) and Shelly Simonds (House District 94), a former Youth Tour participant.

Reagan Taylor, representing Community Electric Cooperative, raised the issue of school safety as part of the visit with lawmakers.

“There are a lot of things going on. I just wanted to bring it to their attention,” says Taylor, a recent graduate of Suffolk Christian Academy.

In fact, the future Liberty University student, selected in 2020, waited three years for her chance to ask questions because of COVID-related postponements and barriers. She is glad things worked out in 2022. “I wanted to go on Youth Tour no matter what. I thought they were going to give up on me. I’m glad they didn’t.”


Rylee Wilkerson answers a question on Youth Tour. (Photo By: Steven Johnson)

After Rylee Wilkerson watched Community Electric lineworkers perform a live line demonstration, climb poles and demonstrate field work, she thought about a second career in addition to her goal of becoming a neonatal intensive care physician.

“I told them I will be a NICU doctor by day and a lineman by night,” says Wilkerson, a rising senior at Kenston Forest School in Blackstone, Va., and a representative of Southside Electric Cooperative.

In fact, the visit to Community Electric, where Jessica Parr, the co-op’s manager of communications, quizzed the students, was a strong addition to a visit to Busch Gardens and tours of Jamestown and Williamsburg.

Most students say watching line work up close gave them a new perspective on one of the vital components of co-op business and added an informational component to their adventure.

“My dad has been a lineman for 16 years, but I’ve never actually seen an electricity arc like I did today,” says Landyn Smith, whose father Nathan Smith is manager of safety and compliance at Choptank Electric Cooperative. “I’ve heard about them but haven’t ever actually seen one until today.”

Contact your local co-op’s Youth Tour director for 2023 information.