SPECo Wraps up Summer Trips

Recently Southern Pioneer Electric sent five of our local students on trips as part of the 2019 Youth Tour and the 2019 Cooperative Youth Leadership Camp.

To be selected for either of the trips, the students first had to submit an application and then have an interview with two judges. Two of the students went to Washington, D.C., for Youth Tour while the other three headed to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, for the Leadership Camp.

It is always best to hear from our own students about their trip and how they experienced it. What follows is a selection from the Southern Pioneer Electric representatives on their trips and what the experiences meant for them.

Medicine Lodge’s Sophia Dawson and Satanta’s Ella Burrows were joined by 40 students from Kansas and Hawaii on their trip to Washington, D.C. The two had some great things to say about their trip.


“When we arrived that first day, all of us were just getting to know one another. We (maybe) knew almost everyone’s name, but not quite. At that point, we were mere acquaintances, and we were very uneasy about spending the next week with 39 complete strangers. But somewhere along the way, through bucket truck rides and goofy pictures, we left for the airport as friends. From that point forward, we all only grew closer.

Growth is something I believe is a big part of not only the values of not only rural electrics, but the Youth Tour in general. The Youth Tour provides countless opportunities for personal growth and leadership development. As I toured countless monuments and museums (the National Art Museum being my personal favorite) my eyes were opened to not only our nation’s history but to our future.

I found that we, as students, are the future of our nation. We have the power to make more of a difference than I could have ever imagined. I will forever be grateful for the opportunities I had. I will never forget the places I visited, but most of all, I’ll always be grateful for the friends (who would soon become family) I met on Youth Tour. I am thankful for how Southern Pioneer Electric treats all of its consumers like family. Although we arrived as strangers, we left Youth Tour as family. I stepped off the bus on Thursday with 39 new friends, and that is an incredible feeling.

I am also thankful for my three new best friends and our countless inside jokes and memories. The Youth Tour truly is an incredible thing to experience. From going to a Washington Nationals game, to seeing the inside of the United States House of Representatives, to seeing pandas at the National Zoo, there is something for everyone on the Youth Tours. This essay highlights a few of my favorite memories: running through the rain at the Lincoln Memorial, taking home a “rubbing” from the Vietnam Wall, and eating Dippin Dots every day. I did not, however, enjoy the boat cruise as much as most did–this Kansas girl prefers to keep her feet firmly planted on solid ground.

Overall, I am extremely grateful I had the opportunity to visit our nation’s capital and make friends and memories that will last a lifetime. I am thankful for the values of Southern Pioneer Electric, as well as all rural electrics, and their dedication to supporting their local communities through the Youth Tour. If you would have told me how moved I would be by Youth Tour when I first applied, I would have said you were crazy. But, I truly was moved.”


“Two years ago, the Southern Pioneer team introduced the youth programs to my class. Since then, I was anxious to learn more and could see myself at such an impactful youth program. I’m not sure if I could specify a single favorite part of the trip but here are a few. This year in school, I learned about Franklin D. Roosevelt and I wrote a research paper over Eleanor Roosevelt which fostered my interest in this specific memorial; The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial which displayed Roosevelt, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt and several visions of men and women during the Great Depression. I saw things that were a lot larger in my imagination than in person like the Lincoln Memorial. The detail of the memorial was fascinating as well as imagining all of the influential people who stood on that memorial before me. At the close of the week we visited the National Cathedral which was truly amazing. The architecture and also dedication to the church from volunteers was astounding. The Roosevelt Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, and National Cathedral were only a few of my favorites among the diverse locations on the Youth Tour.

The youth tour was flawless. I can honestly say that I enjoyed every minute of it. Aunty Shelly and Aunty Shana have the trip planned down to a science. Even when certain events didn’t go as planned, such as being rained out at the Vietnam War Memorial, there was a backup plan and a positive attitude in the air. Of course with a large group we often moved slow on our different adventures. We ran late leaving the National Cathedral which led us into dense afternoon traffic and shrunk our time slot to dress up before “Hello, Dolly!” at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. On the survey, I suggested leaving the hotel in the morning with dressy clothes and changing into them at the Cathedral. The tea party was a wonderful addition to the Cathedral and the perfect way to end the visit.

This trip was exceptionally educational. I enjoyed learning about the NRECA and their worldwide pursuits. It really sparked my interest to learn about the overseas line construction. I was clueless that our National Cooperative was instituting electricity in impoverished towns overseas so students can learn and families can live in their homes comfortably. This is all happening because of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and local cooperatives which I believe is incredibly respectable. Furthermore, every person or community who is serviced by a local cooperative should know about it! Continuing on, each location we visited gave us a chance to learn and allowing this trip to be so beneficial. I am fortunate because I have traveled quite a bit with my father because of his work, but some students hadn’t had the chance to travel until this trip.

Kansas Electric Cooperatives play a huge role in students’ lives in this way. That they have touched 36 students lives by sending them on a trip chalk full of opportunities that some of us never would have had without Kansas Electric Cooperatives and our local cooperatives. This trip to Washington D.C. opened eyes and intrigued our curiosity whether it was in history, human figures, or politics. It is not even a question in my eyes whether this tour will be beneficial to me in the future because the answer is undoubtedly yes. Before we even left Kansas I had the opportunity to learn about the variety of positions a cooperative offers. Then at Capitol Hill and NRECA’s presentation, I discovered even more occupational opportunities within the electric and energy sector. Opportunities like these have given me additional insight into a vast world and I want nothing more than for other students to experience similar events. This trip is positively recommendable, but not to just anyone. This trip is an amazing reward for student leaders who work their tails off in each area of their lives while remaining positive, respectful, and humble. Kansas did an exceptional job choosing those students and I am honored to have been a Kansas delegate for Youth Tour D.C.”

Kiowa County’s Ashlind Gumpenberger, Liberal’s Melvin Li and Satanta’s Houston Friend attended the Colorado camp, learning about rural electrics and leadership skills. Joining approximately 100 students from Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Wyoming, the trio also had some things to share about their experiences.


“The Cooperative Youth Leadership Camp of 2019 was a once in a lifetime experience. From introducing myself and learning about each and every other camper to saying my goodbyes as we departed the bus, I loved every minute of CYLC. The cooperative we formed with other campers taught me about electricity and how rural electrics are different from corporations. Throughout the week leadership seminars pushed me out of my comfort zones to new levels of leadership that I didn’t even know existed. However, the best part of camp was the people I met and friendships we made. CYLC wouldn’t have been awesome without the camp counselors, staff, and cooperatives that made it possible. Thank-you Southern Pioneer for the trip of a lifetime!”


“Cooperative Youth Tour Leadership Camp this year in Steamboat Springs, Colorado was such a unique experience that I’m glad to say I was a part of. It was unique because it was a trip where I was able to have a lot of fun but still learn quite a bit. I was able to make best friends with people I’ve never met before in my life in just a week. I learned a lot about cooperatives, electricity, and learned how to enhance my leadership skills. One thing that I really got out of this trip was that no matter how great of a leader you are, there will always be 10 percent or more that don’t agree with you or won’t cooperate. But that’s okay! You can’t please everyone and don’t get caught losing the bigger picture trying to please the 10 percent.  I’m extremely grateful for this experience and I highly recommend to everyone that’s eligible, to apply for this trip!”