SDCEA selects four for trip of a lifetime, 2022 Youth Tour to Washington, D.C.

Four area youth have earned a trip of a lifetime this summer – they will participate in the 2022 National Rural Electric Association Youth Tour in Washington, June, sponsored by SDCEA.

Ciali McGinniss

Cotopaxi School student Ciali McGinnis s, Buena Vista High School student Chandler Smethers, Salida High School student Emma Wilkins and Doherty High School (Colorado Springs) student Sami Kupfner will represent their respective schools, communities and SDCEA at the tour. They will join about 30 other students representing electric cooperatives from around the state in Denver for a day to get acquainted and learn about rural electric systems in Colorado before boarding a plane and flying off to our nation’s capital for seven days with chaperones from the Colorado Rural Electric Association.

Chandler Smethers

Among the tour’s highlights are visits to historic sites in Washington, D.C.: the Lincoln Memorial, Mount Vernon, Arlington Cemetery, and the Smithsonian, just to name a few. A full day is spent on Capitol Hill meeting with the Colorado congressional delegation and eating lunch in the cafeteria with congressional staffers. The students are introduced to issues faced by rural electric cooperatives on a state as well as national level.

Emma Wilkins

The SDCEA and Colorado group will join students from all over the United States to tour the sites around the D.C. area and to meet with energy industry and government officials. More than 1,800 students attended the event in 2019. The tour returns this summer after it being canceled during the global pandemic in 2020 and in 2021.

Sami Kupfner

This is an all-expenses paid trip and the winners are selected based on their application and an essay on why they would be a good candidate for the experience. Participating in the Youth Tour is a great way to learn about this great nation, develop leadership skills, gain a better understanding of electric cooperatives, and make friendships with people from across the state and country.

Senator Lyndon Johnson inspired the Youth Tour when he addressed the NRECA Annual Meeting in Chicago in 1957. The senator declared, “If one thing goes out of this meeting, it will be sending youngsters to the national capital where they can actually see what the flag stands for and represents.”
Consequently, beginning in 1957, some of the Texas electric cooperatives sent groups of young people to Washington, D.C., to work during the summer in Senator Johnson’s office, to learn more about government in action. In 1958, rural electric cooperatives in Iowa sponsored the first group of 34 young people on a week-long study tour of the Capitol. Later that same year, another busload came to Washington, D.C., from Illinois. The idea grew and other states sent busloads of young people throughout the summer. By 1959, the Youth Tour had grown to 159 youths.
In 1964, NRECA began to coordinate the program and suggested that cooperative representatives from each state arrange to be in Washington, D.C., during Youth Tour week. The first year of the coordinated tour included approximately 400 young people from 12 states. The idea has continued to grow and today over 1,800 young people and chaperones participate in the Youth Tour every year.
Applications for the Youth Tour are available on SDCEA’s website,, each year in early October. The deadline for application submissions is the beginning of January.

For more information contact SDCEA at 719-395-2412, toll-free 844-395-2412, or email