The Trip of a Lifetime - Youth Tour 23

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“It really is a trip of a lifetime”
By Andrew Spratta, Member Services Coordinator

Watford City High School rising junior, Maxwell Hanson, received the news that he was going on the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour in the middle of an intense match of ping pong.

“When I read the first few lines, I was super excited that I had won.” Max said when asked what his reaction to the news was. “I think the excitement helped me win the game!”

With the ping pong match in the books, Max would soon be on his way to the nation’s Capital for a trip of a lifetime.

Max started his Youth Tour journey by submitting an application that included an essay response to the question What moment in American history do you wish you had been a part of, and what would you have contributed? After submitting a thoughtful response, Max was judged based on academic accomplishments and community involvement. When asked what drove him to apply for Youth Tour, Max spoke about hearing firsthand accounts from students who had attended in the past, many of them saying that this opportunity is one you will regret if you don’t sign up. “Everyone I spoke to said it really is a trip of a lifetime.”

Youth Tour Background

This trip of a lifetime began as a program founded by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) more than 50 years ago to increase young member engagement and allow teens from around the nation a chance to experience government in action.

Over the course of a week, high school students take in the sights, learn more about government, and hear firsthand how electric cooperatives impact the communities they reside in. Nearly 1,400 students, all sponsored by their own electric cooperatives, arrive in Washington D.C. to take part in Youth Tour. This year, North Dakota’s delegation of 15 students arrived on June 18 for a week jam-packed with opportunities to learn, network, and walk the steps of our nation’s Capital.

As soon as the North Dakota Youth Tour delegates arrived in D.C., they hit the ground running starting their tour with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. “I had learned a little bit about the Holocaust in school but seeing the history and artifacts in person was an experience you can’t get through a textbook,” said Hanson when asked about the museum, “the whole museum was very moving and emotional.”

After taking in their first museum, students joined their peers for a co-op advocacy course where they learned about each of the seven cooperative founding principles and why they are an important keystone to the cooperative business model. Closing out day one, delegates met with other students from 44 different states at the 2023 Youth Tour Welcome Event.

Throughout the week, North Dakota’s Youth Tour delegates would visit some of the world’s best museums, historic sites and memorials, and meet with state representatives and senators.

Max’s personal experience – Q&A

What better way to explain the sights and takeaways from the trip than hearing directly from our Youth Tour Delegate? Following the trip, I sat down with Max to go over his take on Youth Tour and hear, from the source, what he thought of the trip.   

Washington D.C. has so much to offer, with each person finding something unique to learn from at each museum and memorial. What were you most looking forward to seeing while in D.C.?

I was excited to see the Lincoln Memorial. I’ve seen it so much in history books but seeing the monuments in real life puts them into perspective a little more. I was really shocked at how big the Washington Monument was!

The monuments really do seem way bigger when you’re next to them! You were able to see so much during the week-long trip in D.C. Of all the sights and experiences, which one was your favorite?

It was all so great, but my favorite would definitely be the Capitol tour. Getting a behind the scenes tour of government in action was very eye-opening – especially seeing the senate in session with my own eyes.

You never know Max, a position in public office could be in your future. During the trip, you met students from all around the U.S. Do you think your communication skills improved because of Youth Tour?

Definitely! Before this trip, I had never really engaged with that many kids from different states. There were so many different people there and they all had their own stories. We would compare accents with people we met from Georgia and learned how they communicate differently than we do in the Midwest. Until this trip, I didn’t know a North Dakotan’s accent was that easy to pick up on!

Now that Youth Tour 2023 has wrapped up, what would you tell other students who are considering applying for Youth Tour 2024?

I would first show them pictures of all the cool things we saw. Then I would tell them the essay is a simple task for what you’ll be gaining. I saw so much and made so many friends I wouldn’t think twice about submitting my application if I could go again!

Since you have been to D.C., do you plan on going back?

I hope so! I really want to go back sometime. My family has already talked about planning a trip in the future. If we do go back, I’d like to spend more time at Museum of Natural History and the American History Smithsonian museums. There’s so much to take in and read there, I could spend two days just at those museums.

How to apply for Youth Tour 2024

To qualify for Youth Tour, students’ parents or guardians must receive electrical service from McKenzie Electric and be a current sophomore or junior in high school. If they meet these requirements, a simple application must be submitted with an essay response to a question selected by the Youth Tour coordinators at NDAREC, North Dakota’s association of rural electric cooperatives. Stay tuned for more details on how to apply!