By Derik Vanderford
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A current Union County High School senior said she participated in a program over the summer that allowed her to make friends from around the country.
Each year Broad River Electric Cooperative sends four local high school juniors on an expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., as part of the Rural Electric Youth Tour.
The tour gives students a chance to learn about the political process, to interact with government officials and to make friends from across the state and nation. Broad River Electric’s Youth Tour delegates join about 50 students representing other South Carolina co-ops, and in Washington, the South Carolina delegation joins more than 1,200 students from across the nation.
In June, then-rising UCHS senior Akire’ Clowney was selected for the tour after she applied and interviewed at Broad River Electric headquarters in Gaffney. Clowney said the trip was announced at her school, and her mom — Erika Eison — said she first read about it in The Union Daily Times and sought out an application for her daughter.
Clowney said the trip was her first visit to D.C.
“It was pretty amazing,” Clowney said. “I would highly recommend it to anyone. Every day was full of meeting new people and seeing new things. It was overall a great trip, never boring.”
Clowney said her favorite part of the trip was touring the Lincoln Memorial with students from other states. She said she made friends from Georgia, Tennessee, North Dakota, Missouri, Montana, Hawaii, Texas, Minnesota, Ohio and Nebraska. Clowney said she also enjoyed touring Mount Vernon, where the tour included a gourmet breakfast and lunch.
Clowney was impressed by her meetings with Senators Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham at the Capitol. She received a letter from Sen. Scott — which included a photo and personal greeting — following the trip.
“The U.S. Capitol Building was huge,” Clowney said. “One thing I learned that I never knew was there is an underground part to it. It was more of a museum.”
Clowney said she enjoyed each of the sites she visited on the tour, naming additional destinations such as Arlington National Cemetery and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.
Tour participants also learned how to balance prices and profits by creating their own “soda pop co-op.”
“There were officials elected from the whole group, and I was one of the officials,” Clowney said.
The officials went to a grocery store to buy snacks and drinks to sell to students on the tour at lower prices than what were available around the city. The project taught students about the benefits received by members of a co-op.
“We all ended up getting back $8 each as profit,” Clowney said.
Current high school juniors who are interested in participating in the June 2016 tour may get information from their guidance counselor or by contacting Broad River Electric Cooperative Member Services Coordinator Josh Crotzer at (864) 206-7128 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-762-4128 or email@example.com.