Local youth attend leadership summit

Wednesday, May 2, 2007
Catherine Phillips and Jacob Crowell stand before the state capital building in Nashville while attending the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association's annual Youth Leadership Summit.

Catherine Phillips of Coffee County Central High School and Jacob Crowell of Cornersville High School were among 44 high school juniors from across the state who recently attended the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association's annual Youth Leadership Summit held March 12-14 in downtown Nashville.

"Local electric cooperatives chose these outstanding students based on their interest in government and their leadership abilities," said Joe Jackson, TECA director of youth and member relations.

"The annual summit gives students an opportunity to learn about electric cooperatives and how they affect their lives," Jackson said of the students representing 22 of Tennessee's electric cooperatives. "It also gives them an opportunity to see, in person, the legislative process in the Tennessee Capitol."

The summit was hosted by TECA and funded in part by the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation, a not-for-profit cooperative financing institute that provides an independent source of financing to member cooperatives nationwide.

"It is encouraging to see this high caliber of future leaders in our service area," said Ann Throneberry, DREMC Home Energy Specialist, who also attended the meeting.

The summit kicked-off Monday night, March 12, with dinner at the group's hotel, the Millennium Maxwell House. "Get-acquainted" and leadership development activities followed, led by cooperative employees and special guests, including 2006 Miss Tennessee Blaire Pancake and Univeristy of Tennessee Extension Specialist Amy Gallimore.

Tuesday morning began early with breakfast and addresses in preparation for a visit to the Legislative Plaza. Donna Morgan, administrator of the Legislative Internship Program, introduced several interns who spoke about working for legislative offices, an interesting point of view of state government coming from the student's peers. Then, TECA Director of Government and Public Affairs David Callis discussed the legislative process.

The 11th-graders made their ways to the Capitol, where they got to see government in action and pose for photos with Gov Phil Bredesen and in front of the historic Capitol.

Following the activities on Capitol Hill, students took an afternoon city tour of Nashville. The group made only a quick stop for pizza dinner before heading to watch a Nashville Predators hockey game. The busy day was capped off with an ice cream social back at the hotel.

Wednesday morning, the students learned more about Tennessee's electric cooperatives and the commitment these co-ops show toward the communities they serve. Then they battled it out in the "Energy Battle" competition, where teams answered trivia questions about electric cooperatives and the state.

Jim Allison, DREMC General Manager, says the Youth Leadership Summit helps students to "learn by experience."

"We offer these educational experiences for our students -- our future members -- because we want them to understand what makes a cooperative special," Allison said. "It's not like we're dealing with their grandparents, who might remember what it was like to live without electricity. These young people have had modern conveniences all their lives."

"We want them to be able to appreciate their electric cooperative and understand why it is so important to form electric cooperatives in the first place," Allison said.