Albert Lea senior learns leadership skills during Rural Electric Youth Tour

Published 4:56 pm Tuesday, June 27, 2023

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Most people dream about certain what-if moments. What if someone had studied this instead of that in college? What if this person had only had the courage to ask out someone else?

Instead of pondering on the what-if, Jaylee Waters, an incoming senior at Albert Lea High School, decided to take action. That’s because she recently returned from Washington, D.C., where she was part of a 34-person state delegate through the Rural Electric Youth Tour, which sponsors roughly 1,400 students every year and shows juniors and seniors how government works and what an electric cooperative business model is.

The theme: Our Time.

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“Our time to give to our community and to take our knowledge and spread it,” Waters said.

Though she hadn’t had previous experience with Freeborn Mower Electric Cooperative, Waters saw it as an opportunity to sharpen her leadership skills and connect with new people.

“I figured it would be an amazing trip, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience this, and I wanted to learn more about my cooperative and electric cooperatives as a whole,” she said.

Conferences during the trip touched on what students’ purpose was and the history of electric cooperatives.

She also saw this as an opportunity to learn and refine skills and hear from an assortment of different individuals, including hearing form Mike Schlepp, a four-time paralympic medalist and two-time world champion wheelchair basketball player.

Waters also developed an appreciation for the electricity available to her after hearing about a speaker’s work in Guam.

And she learned about the nation’s history and the role electricity played in defining history and its monuments.

It wasn’t all business though. Waters and the other participants played games, had the opportunity to attend dances and toured museums, landmarks and monuments around the area, including the Library of Congress, the Capitol building and the Smithsonian, among others.

“A lot of walking,” she said.

Waters said the trip inspired her to potentially consider a career in political science as well.

Besides everything the trip provided, she was appreciative of the opportunity.

“I am beyond grateful for this tip and I will forever be thankful for this amazing opportunity I got to take,” she said. “I highly, highly, highly recommend it to anybody that qualifies for the trip. Definitely take a look into it and apply for it. It truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

According to a press release, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association has hosted the youth tour since 1964, with more than 58,000 students having attended since its inception.

Waters was in Washington, D.C., from June 13 to 18.

Lori Jimenez, administrative/support specialist at the cooperative, was an adult chaperone on the trip.

“It was a life-changing experience for not only the students, the delegates, but the chaperones,” she said. “… There’s a lot to learn, there’s a lot to see.”

Waters also earned a spot on the Youth Leadership Council after competing against seven other Minnesota delegates.

Because she was selected to the council, Waters will attend the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association annual meeting in San Antonio March 1-6, 2024, as well as the Minnesota Rural Electric Association annual meeting in St. Paul March 20, 2024.

Anyone interested in applying for next year’s trip can find an application at Contact Freeborn Mower Electric Cooperative at 800-734-6421 for any questions.