NC Students Sharpen Skills, Explore Nation’s Capital During Co-op Youth Tour

Participating in a tradition more than five decades strong, 43 high school students representing North Carolina’s electric cooperatives gathered in our nation’s capital to participate in the annual Electric Cooperative Youth Tour. Amid the bustling streets of Washington, D.C., youth tourists joined together to learn more about our nation’s capital, the inner workings of our government, civic engagement and the cooperative business model, all while making memories to last a lifetime.

“The Youth Tour provides an incredible opportunity for the future leaders of our state to travel to Washington, D.C. and learn more about our government and history while engaging with their peers and elected officials,“ said Paul Mott, Youth Tour director and government affairs specialist for North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives. “These students also got to learn about how a cooperative works by creating their very own ‘H20 Co-op’ on the trip. I am proud of all the students who were able to attend this year’s Youth Tour and excited to see all they will accomplish in the future.”

Civic Engagement and U.S. History

Each year, one of the top highlights of the Youth Tour is the visit to Capitol Hill.  Students toured the U.S. Capitol building and met with members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation, learning about the legislative process while gaining valuable networking skills. Several of the elected officials answered policy questions and offered advice to the students in attendance.

Youth Tour participants gather at the U.S. Capitol after visiting with North Carolina’s congressional delegation. Photo by John Boal Photography.

In addition to the U.S. Capitol, youth tourists visited a number of historic sites during their trip. The students paid their respects to the country’s fallen heroes during a trip to Arlington National Cemetery and visited the Vietnam, World War II and Korean War Memorials, among many other monuments and museums during their weeklong stay.

While they weren’t brushing up on their U.S. history or walking through the exhibits at a Smithsonian Museum, the students got to explore Washington in a different way. North Carolina’s youth tourists attended a Washington National’s baseball game and a sunset cruise on the Potomac River, while also enjoying a bowling night and a visit to Old Town Alexandria, Virginia.

The students visited a number of monuments and memorials during the week, including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.

H20 Co-op

One of the more unique features of the Cooperative Youth Tour is what the students learn about the co-op business model. North Carolina’s tourists gained hands-on experience into how a cooperative works by helping to operate the H2O Co-op. This student-led co-op provided snacks and beverages to the tourists during their time in Washington. Not only did this experience provide valuable insight into the cooperative business model, students also got to showcase their hard work, dedication and collaboration through operating the snack co-op together.

Youth Leadership Council

In addition to receiving an all-expense paid trip to visit our nation’s capital, Youth Tour delegates are eligible to apply for several college scholarships and the opportunity to represent North Carolina on the  National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s (NRECA) Youth Leadership Council (YLC). This national program aims to develop strong leadership and advocacy skills in the country’s future leaders. One high school student per state is selected to serve on the council each year

Haley Dorsey, representing Blue Ridge Energy, was selected by her fellow tourists as this year’s YLC representative for North Carolina during the 2023 Youth Tour.

Haley Dorsey, the Youth Leadership Council (YLC) representative for North Carolina, stands at the U.S. Capitol. Photo by John Boal Photography.

“Blue Ridge Energy is proud that Haley was selected by her peers to represent North Carolina on the Youth Leadership Council,” said Tasha Rountree, director of community relations at Blue Ridge Energy. “We’re pleased to give students the tremendous opportunity to attend the Washington Youth Tour, which benefits them in many ways.”

As this year’s YLC winner, Haley will attend the 2024 Annual Meeting of North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives in Raleigh, as well as NRECA’s 2024 PowerXchange in San Antonio.

About the Youth Tour

Each year in June, this weeklong leadership development program gives rising juniors and seniors from across the country the opportunity to experience the nation’s capital, engage with elected officials and network with their peers. North Carolina’s 43 youth tourists were joined by nearly 1,800 students from across the country also selected by their electric cooperative to participate in the annual event which ran from June 18-23.

To learn more about the Youth Tour, visit or contact your local electric cooperative.