Three area high school juniors earned trips Thursday night to Washington, D.C., and are taking some knowledge about Co-Mo Electric Cooperative with them.
The trio, Courtney Templemire, Pilot Grove High School, Katherine Loganbill, Tipton High School, and Josey Wright, Prairie Home High School, won the trips as part of Co-Mo's 51st annual Youth Tour competition. The trip, which happens in June each year, was started in 1957 when then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson spoke to a gathering of cooperative leaders and challenged them to send young people to the nation's capital to see firsthand what the flag stands for. Missouri cooperatives joined the growing effort in 1964.
This year's contest question focused on the history of Co-Mo Electric Cooperative, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2014.
"We really wanted the kids to learn about how Co-Mo formed and why it was so important for those early Co-Mo members and employees to accomplish their mission of bringing electricity to the countryside," said John Agliata, the cooperative's Communications Manager and Youth Tour Coordinator. "All nine of our finalists showed they took that mission very seriously."
The nine finalists represented six schools throughout Co-Mo's service territory. They were chosen from nearly 100 students who submitted projects in the form of essays, videos and presentations. Those nine finalists, split equally from Co-Mo's three service districts, competed for the three trips to Washington, D.C., at the First Baptist Church in Tipton.
The finalists took a written test, presented their projects in front of the crowd and competed in a game show. Scores from those events were added to their project scores and a final score for professional maturity. The top point-earner in each district won the trip.
"The Co-Mo kids' projects are always some of most creative I see," said Mike Marsch, Member Services Director for the statewide organization that represents all of the state's electric cooperatives and the coordinator for Missouri's Youth Tour delegation for the past 21 years. "This year's students didn't disappoint."
Marsch served as a judge for the contest, along with Rural Missouri magazine editor Jim McCarty and Central Missouri Electric Cooperative's Kathy Page.
Having a judge from Sedalia-based Central Missouri Electric Cooperative was no accident, Agliata said. It was from that cooperative that Co-Mo was born.
"The area that is now Co-Mo country was originally part of Central Missouri Electric Cooperative," he said. "But those in Cooper County back in 1939 were anxious to get electricity and were told they would have to wait until after the project was pretty far along in Pettis and Saline counties. So instead of waiting, they hooked up with Moniteau, Morgan and Cole counties and formed their own electric cooperative."
It was that information that provided the foundation for many of the finalists' projects. Some focused heavily on the drive of farmers back in the 1930s and 1940s to form the cooperative and bring what was becoming a necessity to a rural area that for-profit companies had passed by. Others interviewed relatives who remember the day the lights came on.
"Electric cooperatives are organizations of the people," said Ken Johnson, Co-Mo's CEO and General Manager. "As time goes on, there are fewer and fewer people who remember that day, who remember what it was like to not have electricity, so a question like the one we asked the students to answer this year is really important. It helps pass on the legacy of those who worked so hard to make electricity a reality out here."
The 2014 Youth Tour trip runs June 13-19. More than 85 delegates from across Missouri will link up with more than 1,500 from across the country to tour the nation's capital and all its historic sites. Delegates will also take a riverboat cruise down the Potomac River and participate in Youth Day, during which they hear from inspirational speakers who challenge their vision of what it means to be a leader.
The six finalists who did not win spots on the trip don't go away empty handed. Co-Mo awards each of the six a $250 college scholarship. Those six were Amber Engelbrecht and Katie Hinck, Stover High School, Olivia Imhoff, Boonville High School, Alli Carpenter, Tipton High School, and Jaden Barr and Morgan Henley, California High School.