OKLAHOMA CITY – The 2021 Virtual Oklahoma Youth Tour Leadership Conference (OKYTLC) was held from June 22 to June 25 at the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives office in Oklahoma City. Approximately 50 rising high school seniors, selected by Oklahoma’s Electric Cooperatives, met online each morning to interact with one another and guest speakers and tuned in on social media each afternoon to complete daily challenges for a chance to receive a scholarship.
After Stacey Howeth, OKYTLC director, welcomed campers she introduced the kickoff speaker: Janine Stange. Also known as The National Anthem Girl, Stange shared how she carried her mother’s lessons with her during her journey of singing the national anthem in every state in America. She encouraged students to not let fears or doubts overshadow their desire to chase their life dreams – even if it meant getting outside their comfort zone.
The first daily challenge for students was to complete an exercise that determines their core values and film a video sharing how their results relate to Stange’s presentation.
To begin the second day of the conference, students watched a greeting video from Jim Matheson, NRECA CEO, before diving into the timeline and impact of rural electric cooperatives. Students also learned how electricity travels to communities and about the seven cooperative principles with the assistance of Trever Stelzig, OKYTLC intern.
For students’ second daily challenge, they were asked to video themselves explaining how they can give back to their community through a project they created as a potential partnership with their sponsoring cooperative.
The third day of the conference was filled with legislative education and guest speakers. Students heard stories from many local elected officials: Congresswomen Stephanie Bice, Rep. Mike Osburn, Rep. Cyndi Munson, and Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Todd Hiett. Each speaker shared how they became interested in politics and why it’s important for students get involved in politics however they can. Laura Vogel, Senior Advisor for NRECA Political Affairs, and Leann Paradise, NRECA Senior Grassroots Associate, presented the Co-ops Vote program and how students can advocate for America’s electric cooperatives.
Later that day, students were asked to email their elected official a topic they are passionate about or interested in for their last daily challenge.
For the final day of the conference, students were invited to attend a luncheon at the OAEC Conference Center. Tim Downing, Associate Attorney General of Oklahoma, and Ryan Walters, Oklahoma Secretary of Education, made a guest appearance and spoke with the students. Lastly, Howeth announced the recipients of the OKYTLC scholarship drawings: Maridian Bales of Northfork Electric Cooperative, Gabriel Gonzalez of Southwest Rural Electric Cooperative, and Makynna Wood of Northwestern Electric Cooperative.
“The 2021 OKYTLC program gave students the opportunity to discover their strengths through personal leadership, learn the benefits and opportunities of being involved in a cooperative and resources to get involved in the legislative process and interact with their elected officials, said Howeth. “This year’s student leaders were actively engaged and a pleasure to host during the conference. I’m proud of the growth I saw during the week and encourage the students to continue their efforts for personal development, as they move into their senior year and beyond.”
The OKYTLC staff thank cooperatives, youth coordinators, special guests, volunteers and OAEC staff for their participation and support of the 2021 Virtual Oklahoma Youth Tour Leadership Conference.