Friday, June 2, 2023

Youth Tour – how it all started and the lasting impact

In early 1957, the National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association’s Annual Meeting was off to a strong start in Chicago, and invited speaker, U.S. Senator Lyndon B. Johnson (D: TX) addressed the crowd with a novel idea: Rural teens should have the opportunity to experience Washington, D.C. and see their government in action – and America’s rural electric cooperatives are the perfect organizations to facilitate this!

“If one thing comes out of this meeting, it will be sending youngsters to the national capital where they can actually see what the flag stands for and represents.” 

– Lyndon B. Johnson

The following summer, in 1958, Iowa’s rural electric cooperatives sponsored 34 delegates for a week-long tour of Washington, D.C.

Recently a member of that very first group was interviewed about her Youth Tour experience. Here’s what she had to say.

Delores Fagle Thom recalls experience on 1958 Youth Tour

Over 60 years ago, Delores (Reed) Fagle Thom stepped on a bus headed to Washington D.C. for the first annual Rural Electric Co-op Youth Tour.

Delores holding a group photo from the 1958 trip.

It was a trip that would leave a lasting impression on the recent high school graduate.

At the time, Delores was working at the Extension Office in Independence. As a member of the Buchanan County Rural Electric Cooperative, her boss suggested that she complete the application for the tour, writing an essay about why she wanted to be chosen. She was one of the over 30 participants from Iowa selected to go to D.C. in 1958. 

On June 14, Delores got on a bus headed to D.C., her first time to the nation’s capital.

The first day of the trip, they had breakfast with members of the Iowa Congressional Delegation, followed by a tour of the U.S. Capitol, led by Senator Thomas Martin. That was followed by a tour of the Library of Congress, visiting both the House of Representatives and Senate, as well as the Supreme Court Building. Delores recalls the time she spent visiting with her local delegates, as well as posing as a group on the Capitol steps.

June 17 saw the participants visiting the NRECA (National Rural Electric Cooperative Association) Building, followed by a visit to the Bureau of Printing and Engraving and the Department of Justice.

Activities the next day included touring the REA (Rural Electrification Administration) Headquarters at the Department of Agriculture, viewing the Washington Cathedral and touring the USDA Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland.

June 19 holds a special place in Delores’ memory. That was the day participants got a special tour of the White House.

After the White House tour, the group visited the Washington Monument, including an elevator ride to the top. Next, they went to the Smithsonian Institute and finished the night with a trip to Glen Echo Amusement Park. On the final full day of the trip, they toured Arlington National Cemetery, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Lee’s Mansion, then concluded the visit with a tour of Washington’s home at Mt. Vernon. After five days of learning about government, the group got back on the bus to Iowa on Saturday, June 21.

Although it’s been well over half a century since Delores was on the Youth Tour, she still has fond memories of the trip.

With the next group of Youth Tour participants just weeks before their trip, Delores is excited for them to experience the thrills she had.

“Make it a learning experience because there’s a lot to learn, but still enjoy the time that you’re there,” she said. “It was a good experience for me, a good learning experience.” 

Special thanks to Jennifer Achenbach, manager of marketing and communications at Allamakee-Clayton Electric Cooperative, for allowing us to republish her story.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Day 5 - Our Last Day of Touring in Washington D.C.

 Thursday, June 23, 2022

    This morning we ate breakfast at Crystal City Sports Pub and then headed toward the Washington National Cathedral. Although we didn't get a chance to tour inside, we did get to walk around outside and tour the grounds. As we were about to leave, we came upon a military funeral being held. We watched from a distance and honored the fallen hero. Many students noted how neat it was to watch. Once boarding the bus, we then headed for the Washington Monument. Standing 555 feet, 5 1/8 inches tall, we all rode the elevator to the very top of the monument. Once on the top floor, each side had 2 windows, with a total of 8 to look out from. The White House could be seen from the North side, Capitol Hill from the East, the Jefferson Monument from the South, and the Lincoln Memorial from the West. Students thoroughly enjoyed going to the top and getting to look out over Washington D.C. from all directions, as well as getting to know more about the monument and how it was built. 

    After riding the elevator back down to the bottom, students were able to explore the Smithsonian Museums in groups of three in the National Mall. Some of the museums that students went to included Air and Space, Natural History, American History, American Art, and the African American History and Culture Museum. Students ate lunch at various food trucks around the National Mall and then were able to explore for a little while longer. At 2:15 P.M. we all met at the National Archives Museum and looked at the original documents of The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, The Bill of Rights, and numerous other documents. Unfortunately, no photography was allowed, so no one got any pictures of those. 
    The final stop of the touring day was at the Holocaust Museum. What an eye-opening experience. This museum does a great job of telling what, how, and why this unfortunate event ever even took place. The 4 storied museum is emotional and moving all at the same time. Pictures, videos, audio recordings, and a handful of original pieces are on display throughout the museum. Ask any of the students, if you've never been before, it's a must-see stop while in D.C. 

    The night was finished out with the annual meeting of the D.C. Munchie Cooperative being held. Here, students conducted a meeting where the co-op was dissolved and any profits that were made, were paid out in dividends to each of the members. Students were able to see a full-circle process of how a cooperative operates. From becoming a member, to actively using its offered services, to seeing how this business model works, students now have a greater understanding of how and why cooperatives are successful in all that they do. 

Tomorrow, Friday we have an EARLY wake-up call. 3:00 A.M. to be exact. We will head for the Baltimore, MD airport and be loaded on a plane and headed back to Iowa by 6 A.M. Students have had a blast here in D.C. and made new friendships over these past seven days. It will be sad to see friends go at the airport in Des Moines, but if anything, these friendships will last a lifetime because of this trip. They'll stay in contact through social media, see one another throughout the state at events and conferences, and maybe even keep in constant contact with one another. Youth tour truly is a life-changing trip. It's obvious because these students are different people then who they were when we all met on Saturday evening in Des Moines. Youth Tour 2022 - you've been one for the books!

- Hollie Nelson
   2022 Iowa Youth Tour Intern

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Day 4 - Capitol Hill Day!

 Wednesday, June 22, 2022

    Today started EARLY! Students had the opportunity to run with Senator Chuck Grassley on a 2 mile run. Start time? 4:15 A.M. 20 students and 3 chaperones took up the opportunity and are all were grateful that they did. While on the run students filtered to the front to run beside Grassley and ask him questions. Some of those questions included what his favorite food is, does he plan to run for re-election, and what his greatest accomplishment is.

    Breakfast again was at Crystal City Sports Pub. After eating we then headed to the White House where everyone had the chance to get a photo with it and made sure to get a large group photo of everyone as well. From there we went to Capitol Hill where students met with their state representatives and senators. Topics that were discussed included how the senators and representatives got started in their political career, what they're doing to solve the current skyrocketing gas prices, keeping children fed during the summer months, and what committees each of them serve on.  

Representative Randy Feenstra

Representative Cindy Axne

Senator Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley 

    A tour of the capitol then took place where students were able to see the crypt, rotunda, and sculpture rooms within the capitol. After the tour, lunch was then eaten at Coop Bank. After lunch American Veterans Disabled For Life Memorial, Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial, World War I Memorial, and the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial was visited and students were able to gain a better understanding about each of the memorials and their purpose. The evening was finished off by visiting the interactive Spy Museum and then back to the hotel for an all-states dinner where students had a dance party and got to mingle with students from other states. 

- Hollie Nelson
  2022 Iowa Youth Tour Intern

Day 3 in Our Nations Capitol

 Tuesday, June 21, 2022

    The day began with a short walk up the street to Crystal City Sports Pub where breakfast was served buffet style. The menu included eggs, bacon, sausage, hashbrowns, and fresh fruit. After breakfast the bus was loaded and we headed to Mount Vernon. At Mount Vernon students got to see first-hand George Washington's estate and even tour the mansion he once lived in. The inside of the mansion has numerous original pieces from when George and Martha Washington lived there. Some of these pieces included fire places, beds, and original paint in some of the rooms. 

Students in front of the mansion.

Original green paint - this was one of the most
expensive colors at the time. This paint showcased
that the Washington's were wealthy for their time period. 

    Lunch was eaten at a cafe on the grounds of Mount Vernon and then students had until 2 P.M. to continue looking around until we loaded up the bus again and headed toward Arlington National Cemetery. A tram tour was taken throughout the cemetery where students gained a greater understanding about the cemetery and those that are buried within it. At 4:15 P.M., four students from Iowa were selected to lay a wreath at The Tomb of the Unknown Solider in the cemetery. Lily M., Elsie L., Lucas W., and Ethan B. had the honor of placing the wreath on the tomb. The four of them represented the state of Iowa and Iowa Youth Tour well. After the wreath laying, the tour was finished out by showcasing a few more stones within the cemetery and then we headed for the bus. 

    The night was finished out by eating Subway sandwiches on the bus while we headed to the Iwo Jima Monument. There, we watched the Sunset Parade and watched the United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps and the Marine Corps Silent Drill perform. 

- Hollie Nelson
   2022 Iowa Youth Tour Intern

Monday, June 20, 2022

We Made It To D.C. - Day 1 & 2

 Sunday, June 19, 2022

    Students departed the Des Moines airport early Sunday morning and arrived in Baltimore, MD around 3:30 PM. The group then met up with the tour bus driver Rob Taylor and loaded up their luggage and headed into Washington D.C. Dinner was held on cruise boat where the states of Texas and South Carolina were also in attendance. After eating a nice meal students had a dance party on the boat, while simultaneously cruising the Potomac River. 

Monday, June 20, 2022

    Students began the morning by attending Youth Day where they heard from multiple Blue Shirts and their experiences with Youth Tour. Then, keynote speaker Mike Schlappi then spoke to students about his message titled "If You Can't Stand Up, Stand Out!" In short, his message is about overcoming what happens to you and making the most of it, while remaining positive. As a paraplegic, he knows that all too well. Mike kept students engaged as they laughed at his jokes throughout his speech. What an inspiration Mike is and a great message he has to share with others!

    Lunch was eaten at Ben's Chili Bowl, a local eatery where D.C. hospitality was highlighted!

(Iowa loves Ben's Chili Bowl!)

    The afternoon was spent visiting monuments and memorials around Washington D.C. with our guide, Amy Gold. Amy has a wealth of knowledge about each and every monument and memorial and was able to tell about all of the ins and outs of Washington D.C. 

    A few of the monuments and memorials visited included:

United States Air Force Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

Thomas Jefferson Memorial

World War II Memorial

    Supper was held at Hill Country BBQ and then students headed back to the hotel to play games in the game room of the hotel and had the chance to buy snacks from the D.C. Munchie Cooperative. 

- Hollie Nelson
  2022 Iowa Youth Tour Intern


2022 - Iowa Youth Tour Orientation

 Saturday, June 18, 2022

    Saturday evening students and their parents met in Des Moines, IA at the Holiday Inn where orientation took place. Students and parents listened to a presentation about the logistics and the rules of the trip. Parents then said goodbye and the students began getting to know one another by playing ice breaker games. Some of the ice breaker games included Youth Tour Bingo, I Didn't Know That and putting together puzzles with their assigned travel groups. 

    Students then took advantage of the opportunity to write a letter to veterans who will soon receive the note on an upcoming Honor Flight. All students wrote at least one and some of the kids even wrote two or three!

    The night ended with the formation of the D.C. Munchie Cooperative. Each student paid $1 to join and bought a $5 punch card to be able to begin buying snacks from the cooperative. Additionally, a delegating committee hired a board of directors, which was then followed by the placement of a CEO, who was voted in by all of the members of the newly formed cooperative. 
    This cooperative is run by the students for the week where it provides them the chance to buy snacks at a substantially lower price than normal. This cooperative program also gives students insight into how an electric cooperative runs and serves its member-owners back home in Iowa, and across the U.S. 

-  Hollie Nelson
   2022 Iowa Youth Tour Intern

Friday, June 10, 2022

You up for the challenge?


I know we haven’t even left yet for Youth Tour, but let’s talk about when we get back! We’ve got a challenge for you!

Challenge: Besides thanking your cooperative for investing in you and sending you to DC, we’d like for each student to schedule a meeting with their cooperative after the trip. It could be with the Youth Tour Coordinator, Manager or even a member of the board. Simply sit down and have a conversation.

How does this work? Contact the person at the cooperative that you worked with on your Youth Tour application. Tell them you want to schedule a meeting.

Show up for the meeting. On time. Be polite. Business casual attire. After THANKING them for sending you on YT and taking this meeting, have a few questions ready to start the conversation. Can be things like:

1.       I’m curious, how can we get youth more involved with the co-op?

2.       Does the cooperative offer internship programs and possible future employment?

3.       How does the cooperative attract board members/employees?

Be prepared with ideas on how to better promote the Youth Tour program.

The meeting will probably be 30 minutes or less.

Thank them for their time.

I’ll have a form for you to fill out and return to me.

It’s worth it! Everyone that does this assignment, will get their name put into a drawing. One person will win a $100 American Express gift card, 2 people will win a $50 American Express gift cards and 4 will win a $25 American Express gift cards.

I’m looking forward to hearing about your meetings!