Washington Youth Tour


Brownsville – 8 students from southwest Tennessee spent a week in the nation’s capital as delegates of the 2023 Washington Youth Tour. Cole Coffman, Destiny Bullock, Ethan Cranford, Hannah Callahan, Isaak Wignes, Jacob Butcher, Levin Lane and Sarah Ault joined 128 other students from across Tennessee on the weeklong trip that began on Thursday, June 15.

This annual event is sponsored by Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation 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.

Anna Grissom, community relations specialist said that youth tour delegates are the future leaders of the region. "Through the Youth Tour, these young people are given an extraordinary chance to explore history and public policy in a direct way, cultivate their leadership skills and acquire knowledge that will be valuable for their communities down the road."

“The Washington Youth Tour is more than just a trip,” said Todd Blocker, vice president of member relations for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and tour director. “It’s a transformative experience that ignites a love of history, inspires leadership and empowers young minds to shape the future. By witnessing awe-inspiring monuments, engaging with our nation’s leaders and connecting with a community of peers, youth tour can cultivate a lifelong passion for active citizenship.”

While in Washington, D.C., Tennessee’s Youth Tour delegates saw the White House and memorials to past presidents Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt as well as monuments honoring the sacrifices of veterans of World War II and the Vietnam and Korean Wars. During visits to the museums of the Smithsonian Institution, the touring Tennesseans saw and experienced natural, historical and artistic treasures. Other fun stops included historic homes of former presidents — George Washington’s Mount Vernon and Jefferson’s Monticello — as well as the National Museum of the Marine Corps, the Washington National Cathedral and a boat cruise down the Potomac River. The group also paid a solemn and sobering visit to Arlington National Cemetery where the delegates laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Delegates were welcomed to the U.S. Capitol by Senators Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty, as well as other members of the Tennessee congressional delegation. The students had the opportunity to take photos with them and ask them questions.

While in D.C., winners were announced in the statewide competition for the Robert McCarty Memorial Scholarships. Livia Benefield from Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative, Cole Coffman from Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation and Claire Townley from Tennessee Valley Electric Cooperative 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.

Ernee Webb, a senior from Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation, was awarded a $10,000 Cooperative Youth Ambassador Scholarship. Webb was a 2022 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. Webb’s name was randomly selected among the 25 delegates from across the state who completed the requirements.

“Investing in these young people not only nurtures their potential but is an investment in the future of rural and suburban Tennessee,” said Mike Knotts, CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “It is exciting to consider the impact that these talented young people will have on their communities, and electric cooperatives are honored to support their academic journeys.”

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.

Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation is your member-owned electric cooperative. We pride ourselves on providing affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy to more than 51,000 members in parts of 11 counties.

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.


Anna Grissom | Community Relations Specialist | 731.585.0543 | agrissom@stemc.com

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