Every June, Cherryland sponsors two students from local high schools to represent the co-op on the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour; a once-in-a-lifetime, all-expenses-paid leadership travel opportunity to Washington, D.C. The students tour the monuments, meet with their legislators, and join with other students nationwide to learn about the co-op business model.

Reeve Katt of Benzie Central High School was one of the two students who represented Cherryland on Youth Tour last year. During that trip, Katt was selected to represent Michigan on the Youth Leadership Council (YLC) and return to Washington, D.C. for a leadership workshop. She, along with her fellow YLC delegates, will also play an important role during the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s (NRECA) Annual Meeting this February.

Check out what Katt had to say about her Youth Tour and YLC experiences.

What interested you in Youth Tour?

I was interested in Youth Tour because I wanted to have the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. independently while meeting people outside of northern Michigan. I have friends who live four minutes from the Michigan-Indiana border now – not to mention buddies living in Alaska and Hawaii! 

What were your favorite experiences from Youth Tour?

One of my favorite experiences from Youth Tour was going to the Capitol Building and meeting Congressman Bergman – very cool! I got into a discussion with him and he showed me my artwork that is coincidentally hanging in the Cannon Tunnel through the Congressional Art Competition. My other favorite experience was all the friends I made along the way. There were only 21 of us, so we got very close together after a week. Washington was hot and muggy, of course, but we got through it together! 

Why did you want to join the YLC?

I wanted to join the YLC because it seemed like a cool way to come back and meet an even more diverse range of people. There is one YLC delegate per state, so I am friends with people across the U.S. now! We lean on and support each other, and I would say that even though it is quite literally impossible to live near each other, I am closer to the people I met this summer than most around our town. 

What has your YLC experience been like so far?

It has been very fun! It’s more work than Youth Tour. We have assignments and tasks that we need to get done throughout the year. During our YLC stay in July, we did less sightseeing and more meetings. On the other hand, there is a lingering excitement at the idea that we’re all going to be together again in February. 

What are you looking forward to, as it relates to YLC?

I’m looking forward to NRECA’s Annual Meeting in New Orleans at the end of February. We’re going to be helping the meeting out; possibly doing a few panels. It’s our final bow before we all part ways and a new YLC is formed in the summer.

What did you learn about electric cooperatives that you didn’t know before?

I was surprised to learn that electric cooperatives are very involved in many parts of the community. For example, I have friends whose cooperatives were crucial in giving them access to broadband Internet. It’s super cool how Cherryland distributes income back to the members of the cooperative in the form of capital credits. 

What would you say to any local high school student thinking about applying to Youth Tour?

DO IT! Take the opportunity to open a new door for yourself, and leap through it! If you engage in activities – whether it’s school, sports, or Youth Tour – people will start to take notice and you’ll get much more out of the adventure. I know I did. 

To learn more about Youth Tour and YLC and to apply, visit cooperativeyouthtour.com.