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By Shelly York

Youth Tour 2022 can be summed up simply by saying, “We’re back!” The pandemic was able to pause the 60-plus year tradition, but it certainly couldn’t stop it! We were so excited to get back to Washington, D.C., and show 34 Iowa students the nation’s capital and experience all that the Youth Tour has to offer.

To be honest, there was a bit of trepidation on my part. Would I remember how to “do Youth Tour?” Is D.C. ready for large groups? What if we have travel issues? All that worry was for nothing. D.C. was ready, and our travel days went off without a hitch. But the true rockstars of the trip were the 34 high school students chosen by their electric cooperatives for this experience of a lifetime!

We started out with an orientation in Des Moines the night before we left. Most of the students did not know a single other person going on the trip, but that didn’t stop them from jumping right in.

Snack cooperative success

I love touring D.C. with the Youth Tour delegates, but I must admit one of my favorite activities of Youth Tour is working with students to run our own cooperative. Our cooperative provides snacks for chaperones and students. This project is educational and practical, plus it accomplishes a few things: It provides drinks and snacks at discount prices, and it teaches everyone about starting and operating a cooperative and being a member-consumer.

On the last night of the trip, our snack co-op held an annual meeting where the leadership reported to the members about the co-op’s operations. Margins, or funds remaining after operations are closed, were returned to the members through patronage and capital credits.

Once-in-a-lifetime experiences

Our week in D.C. was full of incredible sights and experiences. From laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, seeing the city from the top of the Washington Monument, meeting with members of Congress, visiting all the monuments and memorials around the district, touring the U.S. Capitol, grabbing lunch at my favorite local eatery (Ben’s Chili Bowl) to joining Sen. Chuck Grassley on his early morning run, we had an unbelievable week. I say without hesitation that we all walked away with a greater understanding of our roles as American citizens and a greater appreciation for the role of electric cooperatives in our communities. For details about what we did each day, check out our blog at

Save the date! Next summer’s Youth Tour will be held June 17-23, 2023, with orientation the evening of June 17 in Des Moines.

If you know a high school student with a passion for government and public service, encourage them to apply for next year’s trip. Contact your local rural electric cooperative and visit for more information.

Shelly York is the Youth Tour director for the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives.

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