The trip of a lifetime

January 2, 2020

 • BY Ron Holcomb

The young lady featured on the cover of this month’s magazine was selected for Tipmont’s Youth Tour delegation last summer. The photo was taken at the Newseum, an exhibit that promotes the importance of a free press and the First Amendment. The balcony on the seventh floor looks right down Pennsylvania Avenue at the U.S. Capitol. It’s just one awe-inspiring sight in a week of life-altering experiences that Tipmont is proud to sponsor each year.

Youth Tour is a week-long trip to Washington D.C. for high school juniors sponsored by electric co-ops across the country. Each summer, students spend the week touring national historic sites, experiencing cultural diversity, meeting U.S. congressional representatives, and learning about electric cooperatives and the energy industry.

There’s an interesting history behind the experience. In 1957, a young senator from Texas attended the NRECA Annual Meeting in Chicago. He asked electric co-ops to consider sending high school students from rural areas “to the national capitol where they can actually see what the flag stands for and represents.” That summer, a few Texas co-ops sent a small group of young people to work in the senator’s office.

In 1958, electric cooperatives in Iowa sponsored the first group of 34 students. By 1960, the number had grown to 130 students from multiple states, including the first Indiana delegation. In 1964, NRECA began to coordinate the program and suggested that co-op representatives from each state arrange to be in Washington, D.C. during Youth Tour week. By this point, the tour included over 400 young people from 12 states.

Today, more than 1,500 students and 250 chaperones participate in Youth Tour each year. Those chaperones include Tipmont employees who graciously take time away from their families to ensure the students have both a meaningful and safe experience. 

One of the trip’s highlights for Indiana’s students is the day at Capitol Hill meeting with Indiana’s congressional representatives. It’s a unique opportunity for both the students and the representatives to discuss relevant topics ranging from the cost of higher education, national debt, and climate change. The conversations are respectful, but also passionate and poignant. The congressmen and women remark each year how much they look forward to meeting with co-op students.

Tipmont’s board proudly invests in this opportunity knowing that the outcomes are measurable and long lasting. Youth Tour has inspired past Tipmont students to pursue co-op careers, civic-focused careers and enlist in the military. Applications are currently open at tipmont.org. Please encourage any high school juniors you know to apply.

By the way, that young senator from Texas just a few years later would be sworn in as the 36th president of the United States on one of the darkest days in our nation’s history. We all owe Lyndon Johnson a debt of gratitude for his role in creating this “trip of a lifetime.”

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Ron Holcomb

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Ron is a 30 year veteran of the electric utility industry with extensive experience in power supply, advanced grid technologies, essential service operations, economic development and value-driven growth initiatives for combined electric and telecommunication utilities. During his career, he has led three utilities as President/CEO and provided management consulting to utilities across the country. Ron joined Tipmont REMC as CEO in summer 2013. He holds a B.S. in Physics from Austin Peay State University and an MBA from Murray State University.
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