Austin Plett and Lexy Coston were the winners of Lamar Electric Cooperative’s 2018 Government-in-Action Youth Tour essay contest. The two winners were among approximately 150 students from other cooperatives in Texas who made the trip to the nation’s capital June 7-14 for a tour of its many historic sites. Lexy is the daughter of co-op members, Renae and the late Joe Coston of the Midway community and recently completed her junior year at Chisum High School. Austin is the son of co-op members, Ernie and Rachel Plett of the Tigertown community and recently completed his sophomore year at Faith Christian School. Contestants submitted an essay addressing the topic, “How has electricity improved life in the area where I live?”.
The Youth Tour was born from a speech given at the 1957 National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Annual Meeting by then-Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson. He was a longtime advocate of electric co-ops, having lobbied for the creation of Pedernales Electric Cooperative in 1937 as a young politician in Texas. “If one thing comes 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 the future,” Johnson said. With that encouragement, Texas electric co-ops began sending summer interns to work in the senator’s Washington, D.C., office. In 1958, an electric co-op in Iowa sponsored the first group of 34 young people on a weeklong study tour of the nation’s capital. Later that same year, another busload came to Washington from Illinois. The idea grew, and other states sent busloads of students throughout the summer. By 1959, 130 students were sponsored by electric co-ops to visit Washington, D.C., and see their government in action. The program has steadily grown in popularity since its beginning 50 years ago.
This year the tour originated in Austin for Texas participants. From there, the group flew to Washington, D.C., where they met with approximately 1,500 other students from across the nation. Once in Washington, the tour participants got to see and tour many historic places such as Mount Vernon and the U.S. Capitol, where they visited with Texas Congressman John Ratcliffe and toured the House and Senate chambers. Also included on the tour were historic sites like the National Cathedral, Ford’s Theatre and the Smithsonian museums, the Washington Monument, FDR Memorial, Kennedy Center, Kennedy’s grave, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery and Mount Vernon, as well as the Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial and Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Lamar Electric sponsors area students on this trip each year. To be eligible for the Youth Tour contest next year, a student must be a sophomore, junior or senior in high school and live in a home served by Lamar Electric or attend one of the four high schools served by Lamar: Detroit, Prairiland, Roxton and Faith Christian Academy. Home-schooled students in homes served by Lamar Electric are also eligible.