Over 1,800 of rural America’s outstanding high school students traveled to Washington, D.C. to gain an understanding of the pollical process, interact with
their elected officials, see history up close and learn more about electric cooperatives. The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s (NRECA) Youth Tour
has been a tradition for 53 years. From June 10th – 15th, delegates, chaperones, and staff from 46 states travelled to Washington, D.C. to hear from NRECA speakers
and congresspersons, as well as have guided tours of America’s historical places. United Electric Cooperative chose eight outstanding students from our territory to
represent our cooperative: Kieran Bunnell, Thad Butler, Brooke Holben, Cecilia Manno, Luke Poole, Hannah Rittenhouse, Kenneth Stover, III and Marissa Wheeler.
June 11th was this year’s Youth Day for all attending students. Youth Day consists of engaging speakers and state-to-state socialization not only by talking, but
by students exchanging their states’ pins and stickers. Jim Matheson, NRECA CEO, spoke to students about making sure they are doing what they can for their communities
and remembering to exercise their right to vote not only in national elections, but local ones as well. Also as speakers this year were two previous youth tour
students that are now interning at NRECA. The word, “Coopportunity” was minted by these students to remind the current youth tour delegates that anything is
possible when you broaden your horizons. Students also heard from Bobby Von Bokern, a journeyman lineman at Owen Electric Co-op in Kentucky about his time spent
in Haiti for NRECA International. Bobby had a slideshow of photos and a few videos of everyone coming together to “get the lights on” for a small village in Haiti.
He left the students with an exceptional quote: “The work you put in right now distinguishes who you are going to be for the rest of your life.” Once again in the
Youth Day line-up, students heard from two-time Paralympic medalist Mike Schlappi. He always discusses his entire life, including the shooting accident committed by
his best friend that left him without the use of this legs. Mr. Schlappi stresses to all the students every year that their voice matters and even if you can’t stand
up you can stand out.
Following Youth Day, Pennsylvania and New Jersey students were treated to arcade gaming, good food, and Coop themed scavenger hunts at Dave & Buster’s. This
provides the students some time to get acquainted since the Pennsylvania/New Jersey group has grown so large. Prizes were awarded to the top three teams and all the
students seemed to be more comfortable with each other following this event. Throughout the week, the Pennsylvania/New Jersey students visited Arlington National
Cemetery, the Smithsonian Museums, the News Museum (Newseum), Madame Tussuads Wax Museum, the Holocaust Museum, the Udvar-Hazy Space Center and various monuments.
Also on the itinerary was a visit to the Washington National Zoo, Union Station, and various NRECA sanctioned events for every states’ students to mingle with each
In addition to touring our nation’s capital, students also get to meet with their congressperson for a question/answer session. All of United’s students met with
United States Representative for Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional district, Glenn “GT” Thompson. Congressman Thompson arranged for us to meet in a much larger room
than his office since his group of students is always one of the biggest. Students asked a considerable amount of questions this year with a wide range of topics
including the Domestic Violence Abuse Act and its funding, gun control in conjunction with mental health and schools and the Farm Bill and its provisions for dairy
More than 51,000 students from all over rural America have participated NRECA’s Youth Tour program. The Rural Electric Cooperative Youth Tour was established by
President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 as way to educate young minds on the reasons behind a cooperative and its principles. Students in Pennsylvania that have attended
the Youth Tour are eligible every year they are in a system of higher education to apply for the Jody Loudenslager scholarship offered through the Pennsylvania Rural
Electric Association. Ms. Loudenslager was a 1995 Pennsylvania Youth Tour participate from Trout Run, PA. She was among the 230 passengers killed on July 17, 1996
when TWA flight 800 exploded after take-off from New York. Jody was committed to high education, whatever form it takes and believed that Youth Tour instilled the
importance of electric cooperatives and the values they represent to the next generation of leaders.
Meet the Students
Kieran Bunnell attends Curwensville Area Jr/Sr. High School and is the son of Lance and Vickie Bunnell of Olanta. Kieran participates in Spanish club,
envirothon, Nation Honor Society and literature club. He also coordinates Logs to Lumber meetings and served as the secretary for 3 years. He plans to continue
studying math and science with a career in engineering.
Thad Butler attends Clearfield Area Jr/Sr. High School and is the son of James and Ann Butler of Frenchville. Thad participates in key club, track and
student council. His special interests include band, cross-country, and Spanish honor society. Thad plans to pursue a career as a pediatric doctor.
Brooke Holben attends Jefferson County-DuBois Area Vocational-Technical School and is the daughter of Scott and Michelle Holben of Brookville. Brooke
participated in color guard and Skills USA. She also volunteers for her local Christmas banquets and fall festivals. Brooke currently studies Audio and Video
Production and would like to become a military combat videographer.
Cecilia Manno attends Brockway Area Jr/Sr. High School and Conserve School in Wisconsin. She is the daughter of James and Jackie Manno, Jr. of Brookville.
Cecilia participates in concert and marching bands, Dale Carnegie leadership training, musicals and Scholastic Challenge. She also volunteers with her local bible
school and church youth group. Cecilia has a major interest in environmental stewardship/sustainability and would like to obtain a career in conservation
Luke Poole attends Punxsutawney Area High School and is the son of LouAnn Poole of Oliveburg. Luke participates in student government, cross-country,
tennis, and cheer. He also volunteers his time through Key club, choir and the Punxsutawney Theatre Arts Guild. Luke is very interested in music and politics and
is undecided on a career goal at this time.
Hannah Rittenhouse attends Clarion-Limestone High School and is the daughter of Joe and Shannon Rittenhouse of Brookville. Hannah participates in cross
country, volleyball, track and basketball. Hannah would like to pursue a career goal of becoming a nutritionist and personal trainer.
Kenneth Stover, II attends Glendale Jr/Sr. High School and is the son of Teresa Dixon of Coalport. Ken is involved in marching, concert, jazz, and
district bands and participates in soccer. Ken has a major interest in computer programming and ultimately wants to be become a successful game developer.
Marissa Wheeler attends DuBois Area High School and is the daughter of Edward and Delores Wheeler of Penfield. Marissa is involved in chorus, tennis and
National Honor Society. She also volunteers with her local church’s youth group and is employed at Hoss’s. Marissa is interested in the medical field and would like
to become either a trauma surgeon or an anesthesiologist.