Youth Program Delegates Selected

Congratulations to FreeState Electric Cooperative’s 2018 Electric Cooperative Youth Tour and Cooperative Youth Leadership Camp winners! This year, applicants were asked to write an essay about the cooperative difference and why electric cooperatives matter.

The youth representing FreeState in Washington, D.C., are Adam DeMaranville and Braxton Shupe. Representing FreeState in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, are Blake Phillips, and Laura Heskett. Read excerpts of each winner’s essay submitted in their application below. 

As part of our cooperative commitment to education and our communities, FreeState participates in these annual youth programs. Each summer, high school juniors throughout FreeState’s territory with a parent or legal guardian who is a member are eligible to apply through an essay competition. These all-expense-paid trips are awarded to four youth, two of whom will travel to Washington, D.C., and two of whom will travel to Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Electric Cooperative Youth Tour
DeMaranville and Schupe will begin their trip by meeting approximately 37 other delegates from across Kansas and Hawaii. Before departing from Topeka, FreeState will host the youth for breakfast, safety demonstrations, and bucket truck rides.
Youth will then travel to our nation’s capital to explore the city and the history of our nation through museums, monuments, memorials, and meetings with state senators. More than 1,800 youth from across the country will attend this year’s Youth Tour June 7 through 14. This experience is an opportunity of a lifetime full of opportunities.

Cooperative Youth Leadership Camp
Phillips and Heskett will join nearly 100 other youth from Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Wyoming in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, for a week-long camp featuring activities demonstrating the cooperative business module and leadership skills through daily “membership” meetings where the youth elect established committees, a general manager, and a board of directors. Campers will also visit the Trapper Mine and Craig Power Plant.
Among the learning opportunities, the youth will also experience white-water rafting, a volleyball tournament, a talent show, swimming, and a high voltage safety demonstration presented by the Yampa Valley Electric linemen. This year’s camp will take place July 13 through 19.

FreeState continues to be a participating cooperative in these annual programs, hosted by our statewide association, Kansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc., to promote and build on local youth’s leadership, growth, and education on cooperatives, electricity, politics, and history. Throughout the years, many Youth Tour and Camp alumni have reiterated the impact their personal experiences with these programs had on their involvement and current careers.
Through the assistance of our members, FreeState can continue sponsoring youth each year. Applications are open to all high school juniors with a parent or guardian who is a FreeState member. 
To read more about our winner’s experiences, check out our features in future Kansas Country Living issues and at 

Adam DeMaranville, Tonganoxie High School
There are many other principles that the co-op exhibits including honesty in which business is done in an honorable manner, aiming to advance the common good for all, continuous education of members to have the ability to make informed decisions about the co-op and cooperation to serve the best interests of their members. Being so transparent allows for understanding and trust. As a member, you know that you are being treated with respect and because of this, the relationship you establish with your co-op has longevity. This, in turn, offers comfort knowing you can look to the future with peace of mind.

Another important aspect of the co-op family is their desire to share their vision internationally. Electricity has become a common staple in modern society, and sometimes we forget that there are still areas of the world that suffer due to lack of access to it. Because of this, things such as health care, proper food storage and preparation, clean water, education and numerous other issues plague these people and impact their quality of life. However, NRECA has worked diligently to bring electricity to more than 120 million people in 43 developing countries. The forward-thinking and compassion for others exemplifies why co-ops have been so successful throughout the years.

As you can see, our co-op is so much more than just a place to get electricity. Through adversity, they have faced many challenges to be able to serve you and rural areas. Being a member of a co-op empowers you to take an active role. You may be just one member, but you can join with so many other co-op family members to collectively make the future of rural electric strong and vibrant with the ability to serve generations to come.

Braxton Shupe, Tonganoxie High School
There are many reasons why electric cooperatives matter, but the most important reason is that cooperative members are not just customers—they are partners. When you partner with an organization, it means that you work together for the betterment of everyone. That working relationship is key too. Providing effective electric resources.

Working together is what co-op members do. Members of cooperatives can vote, elect board members, and help participate in policy-making processes. Through this working relationship, co-ops do not place an emphasis on making a profit They invest in their members and their service needs.

The need for rural electric co-ops began in the 1930's when residents needed affordable electricity. Co-ops answered that call and had been efficiently serving rural customers ever since. Today it is difficult for us to imagine a world without electricity. It is hard to imagine lighting our home with kerosene lamps, reading by candlelight, or cooking our food on a wood stove. Our need for electricity to power our televisions, computers, and phones is extremely important to our daily lives. With a small flip of a switch, our homes are lit, and within a few minutes, our phones are charged. Many times, we use electricity without thinking about where it comes from and the manpower it takes to make it possible.

As a co-op member, you have a vested interest in the well-being of the organization. As a member, you play a primary role in the future of the co-op. Everyone must work together to make the co-op successful. You have a say in the future of electric energy. The answer to the most critical question: Why do co-ops matter? The co-op system is established so that each member matters. That's why co-ops matter.

Blake Phillips, Tonganoxie High School
Electric co-ops are democratically based which means members are elected as representatives to make decisions on behalf of the cooperative; the fact any member can become a representative of their co-op means members have an extraordinary amount of power in decisions. Unfortunately, according to a national study by the Democratic Energy Initiative, 72 percent of electric co-ops have less than I0 percent voter turnout at elections. Just as in political elections, voting within an electric co-op ensures members’ voices are heard on decisions that impact them. Members should utilize the power of their membership to elect representatives they think will best represent their co-op and put members first.

When paying for electricity, any money first goes to running the co-op so that all members receive quality service. However, if there is any surplus in the amount of money acquired by the co-op, that money goes into further developing the co-op to better serve its members or goes back into the pockets of the members in the form of capital credits. Having a member-owned co-op ensures no money is wasted, and all are used to benefit the members first.

Unfortunately, many members of electric co-ops do not know about the advantages that accompany their membership. Electric co-ops, like FreeState, are member-owned organizations that are democratically run to benefit their members. Cooperation among members is essential for both co-op and community to flourish. While some will continue to only have the "pay and receive" relationship with FreeState, members should investigate the power of their membership and the benefits that come with it. Electric co-ops are more than organizations providing electricity; they provide a crucial service and empower communities to prosper.

Laura Heskett, Tonganoxie High School
Electric cooperatives are designed to serve and be governed by its members to bring the rural communities in which they operate both reliable power, and a sense of ownership within their community. Annual meetings are held for all of the members to vote on board positions and other business strategies, and they are running democratically to ensure that all members get a vote in the development of their business. Electric cooperatives were started to give rural citizens easy and affordable access to power, and use the policy of voluntary, open membership allowing anyone into the cooperative regardless of race, religion, or gender.

When you start paying for your electric bill, you invest in the cooperative. That money then goes toward cooperative expenses, a little is set aside for emergencies, and the rest that is leftover goes back to the members in the form of capital credits. Members of the Board of Trustees, which consists of our local leaders, help to ensure that the members of FreeState communities are getting the best possible service for their area.

By bringing power to thousands of rural citizens, and providing numerous opportunities for its members, FreeState has established itself as an essential part of the communities in Northeast Kansas. They continually show this by having employees that are local Kansans who help directly lead the cooperative to ensure the best service towards its members; giving back to students through youth programs like Youth Tour, and creating the FreeState Community Foundation, which helps to benefit the surrounding community with Operation Round-Up; keeping the lights on and providing members with money and power saving ideas through sponsoring the Kansas Country Living magazine; and capital credits.