Southern Pioneer Electric Sends Four on Adventure

Southern Pioneer Electric recently sent four local high school students on two, all-expense paid trips as part of the utility’s commitment to the community. Two students were selected for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s 2018 Youth Tour to Washington, D.C., while the other two traveled to the Cooperative Youth Leadership Camp in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

All four students who were selected to represent Southern Pioneer Electric went through an application and interview process. After having their application chosen out of several dozen, the applicants then had a scored interview with a panel of judges before being selected for one of the trips.

“With so many great applicants, selecting just four is difficult,” said Energy Services Coordinator Dee Longoria. “But the students we selected were all very deserving and represented Southern Pioneer extremely well.”

Brayden Schmidt of Medicine Lodge and Desiree Doherty of Kiowa were selected to attend the CYLC, which aims to bring high school students together in a collaborative setting to learn the cooperative principles while working on leadership and teamwork skills.

At the CYLC, the youth gained a greater understanding of how their electric cooperative operates by creating a candy cooperative. The students learned leadership and teamwork skills while participating in daily membership meetings, establishing committees, and electing a general manager and board of directors. They also learned about power generation by touring Trapper Mine, a surface coal mine, and the neighboring Craig Station Power Plant.

Brayden Schmidt and Desiree Doherty get ready to board the bus to Steamboat Springs, Colo.

Schmidt, who was selected as the chairman and emcee for the camp’s talent show said, “Rodd Welker’s presentation really inspired me and actually being part of a co-op taught me a lot. Everything was pretty inspiring.”

Welker, a trainer and principal consultant with Peak Solutions, gave a seminar during the CYLC on the three C’s—connectedness, cooperation and compassion.
“The leadership seminar by Rodd Welker was amazing,” said Doherty. “I love how he had different exercises for the small groups to show us that we always need each other. “

While at camp, students participated in group activities and educational sessions while learning the importance of inclusivity and collaboration. Even the scheduled leisure activities offered learning opportunities as the students worked together maneuvering their river rafts down the Colorado River, competed in a volleyball tournament and showcased their entertaining skills at the annual talent show. The students also toured downtown Steamboat Springs, enjoyed an evening dance and got to go swimming as well.

Liberal’s Joshua Diazdeleon and Medicine Lodge’s Makalah Henke attended the 58th Annual Electric Cooperative Youth Tour in the Nation’s Capital with 1,800 peers from across the nation. Youth Tour was held June 7 through 14.

These students joined teens from across Kansas and Hawaii to spend a week touring Washington, D.C. There, they learned more about our history, our government, the co-op business model, and how to become community leaders.

Nikki Wilken, Joshua Diazdeleon, Slater Heglin and Makalah Henke pose for a photo at the Washing National’s game.

“Being able to be in the physical presence of our nation’s Capital made me realize just how amazing our American Democracy is,” said Diazdeleon. “Whether it was touring the White House or visiting Fort McHenry, the idea that our country has stood strong since its founding has made me appreciate the men and women who have helped lay the foundation.”

While in D.C., the students tour the White House, the U.S. Capitol, the Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Smithsonian museums, Mt. Vernon, Arlington National Cemetery, the National Cathedral and many memorials and historical sites. The students also attended a professional baseball game, a theater performance at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts and saw the pandas at the National Zoo.
Henke said, “I was so inspired by the history of our country. All of the pictures in text books came to life. Also, being in the city away from my small town opened my eyes to many options.”

As part of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s National Youth Day on June 11, all of the state groups convened to learn from inspirational speakers. This year’s keynote speaker is Mike Schlappi, a four-time Paralympic Medalist and two-time world wheelchair basketball champion, who shared his inspiring message, “Just because you can’t stand up doesn’t mean you can’t stand out!”