Each year, the cooperative sponsors the contest for high school juniors whose parents or guardians are members of GCEC.

WEWAHITCHKA – Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative recently held its annual Rural Electric Youth Tour competition.

Each year, the cooperative sponsors the contest for high school juniors whose parents or guardians are members of GCEC.

Contestants are interviewed by a panel of three judges from the electric cooperative industry.

Two winners are chosen to travel on an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D. C., in June, where they join other rising high school seniors from all across the United States to tour the nation’s capital.

Local civic organizations and high schools play an important role in the contest, as they nominate the students who vie for the trip.

This year’s contestants and the organizations they represented were: Holley Bailey, Kinard Volunteer Fire Department; Jonah Bidwell, Wewahitchka Woman’s Club; Mariah Brown, Overstreet Volunteer Fire Department; Savannah Gardner, Deane Bozeman School; Brook Haddock, Wewahitchka Volunteer Fire Department; Savannah Harrison, Wewahitchka High School; Brooke Hysmith, Wewahitchka Ambulance Service; Lauren Martin, Altha Public School; Jocelyn Minchew, Wewahitchka Search and Rescue; Savanah Parker, Dalkeith Volunteer Fire Department; Antonio Rodriguez, Vernon High School; Anna Setterich, Wetappo Creek Volunteer Fire Department; Nick Smith, Greenhead Volunteer Fire Department; Selena Stone, Mossy Pond Volunteer Fire Department; Sarah Lynn White, Blountstown High School; and Jacob Yon, Scotts Ferry Volunteer Fire Department.

This year’s winners are Savannah Gardner and Savanah Parker. The alternate is Savannah Harrison.

In addition to the Washington, D. C. trip, GCEC takes all of the students who compete in the contest on a two-day trip to Tallahassee. There they tour sites in the state capital with other 11th-graders representing electric cooperatives across the state.

Students toured the Governor’s Mansion and visited the Challenger Learning Center, where they observed an electromagnetic demonstration. They also witnessed a Supreme Court hearing and had a mock session in the House chambers. They dined at various restaurants and visited Sky Zone.

Also traveling to Tallahassee with GCEC’s Youth Tour group were Breanna Brackin, a junior at Chipley High School, and Kendall Cook, a junior at Rutherford High School. Breanna is the daughter of and Kendall is the granddaughter of a GCEC employee and is therefore ineligible to compete in the local contest. Instead, they submitted essays in a statewide contest for children and grandchildren of cooperative employees and board members.

“The Youth Tour contest is a great opportunity for us to reward local students for being outstanding leaders in their communities,” said GCEC Vice President of Marketing and Communications Kristin Evans.

The Washington, D. C. Youth Tour program has been in existence since 1957, when co-ops sent students to Washington, D. C. to work during the summer. By 1964, the program had caught on, and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association began to coordinate the efforts of the co-ops.

Since then, thousands of young people have experienced this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit our nation’s capital and learn about our government.

Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative is part of the Touchstone Energy® national alliance of local, consumer-owned electric cooperatives providing high standards of service to members large and small. Approximately 75 employees serve more than 20,000 meters and 2,600 miles of line in Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Jackson, Walton and Washington counties and in the municipalities of Wewahitchka, Ebro, Lynn Haven, White City, Fountain and Southport.