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In June, 38 Iowa students punched their tickets to the once-in-a-lifetime, whirlwind tour of our nation’s capital that’s known as Iowa Youth Tour! The program is designed for students to learn about electric cooperatives, American history and U.S. government and walk away with a greater understanding of their roles as American citizens.

Since its beginnings in 1958, Youth Tour has become a longstanding tradition of Iowa’s locally owned electric cooperatives. It’s a living example of the cooperative difference – which includes giving back to communities and investing in the next generation of leaders.

We put the “tour” in Youth Tour

When the Iowa Youth Tour group arrived in D.C. on June 18, we hit the ground running. Moving as efficiently as a group of students and co-op chaperones can, we boarded and unloaded the bus at Washington’s top stops to see everything possible during our time in the district. Our stops included the National Mall, various memorials and monuments, The White House, Mount Vernon, Ford’s Theatre, the U.S. Capitol and many more.

Cooperative business model at work

Students also ran their own cooperative called the D.C. Munchie Cooperative, which sold reasonably priced snacks to its members. All students and chaperones became members of the cooperative. As members, they elected a board of directors, and the directors hired a co-op CEO/manager. The board and CEO met every morning over breakfast to discuss and plan activities related to the co-op.

Prior to the trip, students were asked about what type of snacks they would like to see the cooperative sell. Based on their feedback, the inventory for the cooperative was determined.

At the end of the week, the cooperative held an annual meeting and reported there was a margin. The membership fee and patronage were returned to each member.

Honoring our heroes

Another highlight of the trip is the opportunity for some of our students to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This year, Tristan Blair (Calhoun County Electric Cooperative Association), Owen Bell (Southern Iowa Electric Cooperative), Veronica Schechinger (Nishnabotna Valley REC) and Lizzy Kremer (East-Central Iowa REC) represented the Iowa Youth Tour at this ceremony.

Thankful for the memories

As the trip came to its inevitable end, the group reflected on the fact that we started our adventure as strangers but ended as one Iowa Youth Tour family. We are thankful for our time together and especially for the cooperatives that invested in these young leaders. Our world is a much better place because we had this experience together!

You can see highlights from the 2023 Iowa Youth Tour by searching for “Iowa Youth Tour” on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and Twitter. We also posted daily updates on

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

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