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Holding your phone, you have access to almost everything. You need a ride somewhere? Use the Uber passenger app. If you want to know more about the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), you can Google it. Do you need a flashlight? You can turn on the one in your hand. 

You have a lot at your fingertips, thanks to electricity and technology. Without electricity, our lives would undoubtedly be different. I can’t imagine not having my phone, laptop, hairdryer and curling iron, a washer and dryer, and more. 

Thankfully, we had a group of people that supported rural electrification and invested in engineering and technology that allowed electricity to be more affordable for everyone. And here we are today – with much hard work in the intervening years.

Like those early days of people working together to bring electricity to rural areas, many things in life take working with others to get things done.

Every summer, my family gets together for the Fourth of July. One of our favorite jobs is making homemade ice creamThe kids are in charge! We mix up the ingredients, and we put it in an ice cream maker. I’m not talking about one of those easy electric ones. This is a dusty, rusty, hand-crank, only-off-the-shelf-once-a-year ice cream maker. Honestly, I think that is why all the adults put us in charge – they don’t want to crank it.

Thankfully, we all take turns cranking the machine. After our hard work, we enjoy the ice cream. So, what do electricity and ice cream have in common? 

It took a group of people working together to ensure rural America received electricity. In 1942, electric co-op leaders organized NRECA, so all cooperatives could have their voices heard. It required cooperatives to work together, demonstrating one of the seven cooperative principles, “Cooperation Among Cooperatives.” Whether it’s electricity or ice cream, we can accomplish more when people work together.

When my electric cooperative selected me for Youth Tour, I didn’t know what to expect. I had never been to Washington, D.C. I knew we would sightsee, meet youth representatives from other states and learn more about electric cooperatives. It was all of this and more.

I was struck by the amount of history associated with our nation’s capital. Everywhere we looked, there were historical references. Monuments recognize the sacrifices made by members of the military and emphasize the principles our country was built on. Historical events are the groundwork for our future and can also be considered the steering mechanism. 

When I read about NRECA’s history, decisions made by many different government entities and groups of people working together set things in motion for where we are today. Remembering the past and recognizing the hard work of those before us gives shape to our future. 

As a young person, it is essential to remember to work together. By pulling together people of many talents, by incorporating engineering and technology, and by applying hard work and determination, industries such as the electric cooperatives will continue to grow and help our communities. 

It’s also important for me and others of my age to step up and be a part of that, be a leader, get involved, and make sacrifices that make a difference.

The Youth Tour opened my eyes to the possibilities. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will influence my future decisions and career path. 

America is the ice cream, and the crank is the hard work, determination and passion that you put into it. The result is always good. 

Sarah Herz was sponsored by Chariton Valley Electric Cooperative for last year’s Youth Tour. She was selected as Iowa’s 2019 National Youth Leadership Council representative.

Learn more about our Living with Energy in Iowa 2020 Youth Tour Essay Contest!

Click here to learn more about the Youth Tour program.

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