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SPEC Announce Youth Tour Recipients

Two area students will travel to Washington, D.C. this June, courtesy of San Patricio Electric Cooperative. Kayla Rutkowski, a junior at Skidmore-Tynan High School, and Rebekah Halepaska, a senior at Orange Grove High School, entered and won SPEC’s essay contest, earning them the opportunity to attend the Government-in-Action Youth Tour.

More than 1,700 students from cooperatives across the county will attend Youth Tour this year, which runs from June 6-15. Rutkowski and Halepaska will be among more than 145 students in the Texas delegation.

The group will kick off the trip with a day in Austin, giving students the opportunity to explore the Texas State Capital, Bullock Texas State History Museum and Texas State Cemetery.

Then, the delegation will fly to Washington, D.C. with a packed schedule of sightseeing and activities. Rutkoski and Halepaska will visit the Smithsonian Institution, Washington National Cathedral, Newseum, Mount Vernon, memorials and more. 

Activities include seeing a performance at the Kennedy Center, going on a boat cruise on the Potomac, laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider, meeting with elected officials on Capitol Hill and learning about rural electrification.

SPEC sponsors two students on Youth Tour each year, covering the cost of airfare, accommodations, meals and entrance fees to all attractions. The winning students are only responsible for incidental expenses and any souvenirs they’d like to bring home.

SPEC’s Youth Tour contest was open to high school juniors and seniors in the co-op’s nine-county service area, whose parents are members of SPEC. Applicants were required to have a GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. To enter, students had to fill out a short application and answer the essay question, “should co-op linemen be considered first-responders?”

The Government-in-Action Youth Tour has a long and rich history. The trip began from the ideas of President Lyndon B. Johnson, an advocate of rural electrification and youth supporter. In 1957, when LBJ was still a Senator, he spoke at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s (NRECA) Annual Meeting. In his speech he declared that young people should be sent to the national capital “where they can actually see what the flag stands for and represents.”

Cooperatives across the nation embraced the concept and in 1964 created the first organized effort to send students to Washington D.C. for what is now known as the Government-in-Action Youth Tour. After more than 50 years, the Youth Tour has sent more than 50,000 students from rural America to the nations’ capital.

The Youth Tour is often described as the trip of a lifetime, and we think all of our trip recipients come back in total agreement. Not only do they gain knowledge of our nation’s history, but also open a door to new ideas, opportunities and friendships that will last a lifetime. Congratulations to Rutkowski and Halepaska for earning this amazing opportunity.

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