Each year, East Mississippi Electric Power Association sponsors high school juniors on a tour of Washington, D.C., in June. They join other students representing hundreds of cooperatives from Mississippi and across the United States. The delegates are all like minded students that are motivated to succeed and become leaders in their communities. This tour is memorable, not only because these young people are able to visit their nation’s capital, but they also make life-long friendships that benefit them well into their adult years.
The Youth Tour is supported locally by EMEPA, organized statewide by the Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi and nationally by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). Over 1,800 students from 44 states participate annually.
This year, Jamal Kelly and ZaColby Smith joined 68 of Mississippi’s brightest young people while representing EMEPA. They were chosen through an application and interview process. Jamal is the son of Randall and Linda Kelly of Louisville and will be a senior at Grace Christian School. ZaColby will be a senior at Southeast Lauderdale High School and is the son of Richard Smith and Alisha Burnside of Meridian.
The weeklong trip featured visits to the major monuments and memorials, including the World War II Memorial, FDR Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
“This trip was the experience of a lifetime. I have built strong friendships, learned a lot and enjoyed myself and met some very important people,” said Jamal. “The only thing I didn’t like was the pain of having to leave.”
A trip to the Marine Corps War Memorial was one of the first stops on the tour, followed by a trip to the Air Force Memorial on the grounds of Fort Myer near The Pentagon.
After a drive down Massachusetts Avenue, informally known as Embassy Row, the students were taken on a guided tour of the Washington National Cathedral, the second largest cathedral in the U.S. The cathedral has played a vital role in our nation’s history, serving as a grand spiritual center where Americans can unite to worship, pray and mourn.
Later in the week, the students attended the popular Sunset Parade at the Marine Corps War Memorial and enjoyed a performance by the U.S. Marine Forces Reserve Band. White visiting Arlington National Cemetery, the students respectfully watched the changing of the guard and visited the gravesite of President John F. Kennedy.
The students spent a day touring the Smithsonian Museums, including the museums of Air and Space, American History, National History and the National Gallery of Art. Other popular events of the tour were a stop by the Newseum, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and an evening cruise down the Potomac River. The students were also able to watch the Washington Nationals play the Texas Rangers in Nationals Park.
In addition to sightseeing, the students also spent a day on Capitol Hill, which began with a special tour of the U.S. House Floor graciously hosted by Rep. Gregg Harper. While in the Capitol building, the students enjoyed a panoramic view of Washington, D.C., from the speaker’s balcony. After the tour, Jamal joined a smaller group to visit with Rep. Trent Kelly in his D.C. office, while ZaColby joined a group visiting with Rep. Gregg Harper in his office. Both congressmen spoke to the groups about what it takes to be a leaders and the importance of setting goals and striving to achieve them. During the visit to Capitol Hill, students also had the opportunity to meet with Sen. Roger Wicker.
“This was definitely the trip of a lifetime. All the friends you can make and all the things you can do are limitless. If I had the option to do it all over again, I would,” said ZaColby.
“EMEPA is proud to take part in the Youth Leadership Program. We believe it is crucial for these young people to see their government in action, and it’s always rewarding to watch how this program impacts each student as they grow and develop into our future leaders,” CEO Randy Carroll said.
EMEPA congratulates these students on their accomplishments.
EMEPA is currently preparing for the 2018 Youth Leadership Program. Each school within EMEPA’s service territory is eligible to nominate one student from the Junior Class to participate in the program, which is scheduled to kick off on Tuesday, Oct. 3 in Meridian. Any high school juniors interested in participating are encouraged to see their school guidance counselor for information. Deadline for nominations from each school is Tuesday, Sept. 12.