Windsor High student attends localized Youth Tour

Published 5:39 pm Tuesday, August 24, 2021

When Community Electric Cooperative selected Gavin Fowler and Reagan Taylor as its student representatives for the 2020 Youth Tour, it seemed fate had dealt them a bad hand.

COVID-19 was spreading throughout the United States, depriving teens not only of the traditional social experiences associated with high school, but this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet members of Congress in Washington, D.C.

The original Youth Tour was created in 1958 by then-Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson. The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association typically oversees the tour.

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When COVID-19 vaccines became widely available in May, the Virginia, Maryland and Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives asked its members, including Community Electric, if there was interest in a “mini” Youth Tour experience. Their answer was a resounding, “Yes!”

The “mini” tour came to fruition July 28-30 in Williamsburg, where Fowler had the opportunity to meet Delegates Jay Jones and Emily Brewer from Virginia’s General Assembly in person. Maryland Delegates Johnny Mautz andSheree Sample-Hughes, and Hartford County Executive Barry Glassman, joined via a Zoom call.

To keep the NRECA involved in this smaller program, Beth Knudson, NRECA’s Youth Programs & Training Manager, spoke to the students before the delegates arrived. Educating them about Youth Tour, cooperatives, and the impact that they have on the world today.

“It’s not a full substitute for Youth Tour, but we wanted to do something special for these students who were nominated by their co-ops,” said Andrew Vehom, VMDAEC vice president of member and public affairs, who also serves as the Association’s Youth Tour director.

The event also included a walking tour of the recreated Jamestown settlement, a private tour of Colonial Williamsburg, a sunset sailing tour on the York River, a visit to Busch Gardens and an excursion to the Military Transportation Museum. Taylor, a rising senior at Suffolk Christian Academy, was unable to attend, but Fowler, a rising senior at Windsor High School, was able to go with students nominated by Mecklenburg, Shenandoah, Choptank and Rappahannock electric cooperatives.

“Youth Tour is an amazing program and opportunity. It is full of rich history with direct ties to the utility industry based in Washington, D.C., surrounded by decision makers” said Steve Harmon, President and CEO of Community Electric Cooperative. “However, there are vital decision makers right here in our back yard. Allowing our students to experience North America’s historical origins in Williamsburg was an incredible way for us to expose our youth to the heart of this great nation and learn about the political process at a localized level where real change is started and possible.”

“I didn’t know what to expect, but I was glad it was a smaller group of people. We were able to take everything in without a ton of distraction that the larger environment may have provided,” Fowler said. “Everything happens for a reason, and this was ultimately a great experience and was able to make great friends. I am so thankful that Community Electric Cooperative didn’t give up on us and helped make this small Youth Tour experience a reality!”

“I have had the honor to chaperone students for a few Youth Tour’s now, and while the trip location was different, the essence of Youth Tour was not,” said Jessica Parr, Manager of Communications for Community Electric Cooperative. “All of the students were able to intensely participate, explore unique historic sites, make amazing new friends, and truly learn from each other on various levels. It amazes me to see how students take advantage of this unique opportunity to grow as individuals and as students.”

Taylor has been offered a slot to the 2022 Youth Tour, which co-op officials hope will be a return to the traditional event. It is not evident at this time if it will be held by NRECA in Washington D.C. or by VMDAEC in a central location for participating cooperatives.

Community Electric will be accepting applications Sep. 1, 2021 through Jan. 31, 2022. To apply, visit

Community Electric, headquartered in Windsor, is a nonprofit member-owned energy provider serving nearly 12,000 homes, farms and businesses in Isle of Wight, Surry, Southampton and Sussex counties and the city of Suffolk.