Washington Youth Tour



[BROWNSVILLE] – Eight students from across Southwest Tennessee EMC’s service territory got the opportunity of a lifetime to spend a week in our nation’s capital as delegates of the 2024 Washington Youth Tour. Yume Wilkes, Angelina Critelli, Alexis Hale, Zoren Simmons, Olivia Griffin, Torie Miller, Kristen Wade, and McKinnley Barnes were among 139 students from across Tennessee on the weeklong trip that began on Friday, June 14.

This annual event is sponsored by Southwest Tennessee EMC and the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. The students were selected for the trip by writing a short story titled “Co-ops Connect” that explains how co-ops connect Tennessee communities with energy, education, broadband, economic development and more.

“Chaperoning the best and brightest of our service area on a trip of a lifetime to Washington, D.C., each year is a highlight of my job here at Southwest Tennessee EMC,” said Kenley Mitchell, Community Relations Specialist and chaperone on the 2024 Washington Youth Tour. “This year’s delegates represented Southwest Tennessee EMC well at our nation’s capital and are coming back home with the knowledge and leadership skills to become future leaders in their communities.”

The Washington Youth Tour’s nonstop, seven-day itinerary is jam-packed with places to visit and experiences to give the Youth Tour delegates a trip that they will never forget. Highlights include a guided memorials tour around the city, visiting museums at the Smithsonian Institute, touring Washington’s Mount Vernon and Jefferson’s Monticello and taking a trip to Arlington National Cemetery. Delegates also got to see Washington, D.C., staples like the White House, U.S. Capitol and the Washington National Cathedral.

“The Washington Youth Tour is more than a trip,” said Todd Blocker, vice president of member services for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and tour director. “Transformative. Unforgettable. Life-changing. Whether the trip cultivates a love for history, leadership or active citizenship, we are empowering young minds to shape the future. Seeing the impact the trip has had on many over the years is awe-inspiring.”

While in D.C., winners were announced in the statewide competition for the Robert McCarty Memorial Scholarships. Charlsie Strech from Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative, Elijah Jones from Appalachian Electric Cooperative and Ayden Anderson from Gibson Electric Membership Corporation were awarded $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000 Robert McCarty Memorial Scholarships for having the first, second and third place papers of the thousands of papers submitted across the state for this year’s contest. The scholarships are named in memory of Robert McCarty, an employee of Volunteer Energy Cooperative and longtime chaperone on the annual Youth Tour.

Yuridia Garcia, a senior from Appalachian Electric Cooperative, was awarded a $10,000 Cooperative Youth Ambassador Scholarship. Garcia was a 2023 delegate on the Washington Youth Tour. Delegates who remain engaged with their sponsoring cooperative during their senior year and complete certain community service requirements are eligible for the scholarship. Garcia’s name was randomly selected among the delegates from across the state who completed the requirements.

“An investment in the Washington Youth Tour delegates today is also an investment in the future of co-op communities across Tennessee,” said Mike Knotts, CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “The future is bright for this group of Youth Tour delegates. We are honored to be a part of supporting their academic journeys and look forward to seeing what the future has in store for them and the impact they will have on their communities.”

The Washington Youth Tour was inspired by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1957 when he encouraged electric cooperatives to send young people to the nation's capital. Since then, more than 6,000 young Tennesseans have participated in the Washington Youth Tour as delegates.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association provides leadership, advocacy and support for Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives and publishes The Tennessee Magazine, the state’s most widely circulated periodical. Visit tnelectric.org or tnmagazine.org to learn more.


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Kenley Mitchell | Community Relations Specialist | 731.585.0543 | kmitchell@stemc.com

Trent Scott | Vice President of Communications | 615.515.5534 | tscott@tnelectric.org