Co-ops Love Kids - Carolina Country

Co-ops Love Kids

Co-ops go the extra mile to show children the benefits of co-op membership

By Magen Howard, CCC

Co-ops Love Kids
Families enjoy activities and food — and learn about their co-op — at Randolph EMC’s May annual meeting.

Each June, nearly 1,500 high school students, mostly seniors-to-be, descend upon Washington, D.C., for the annual Rural Electric Youth Tour. During the weeklong excursion, the participants — all sponsored by their local electric cooperatives — learn about electric cooperatives, American history and the role of the federal government.

Youth Tour stands as just one way co-ops help educate a vital segment of their consumer base: the children of electric co-op members. Kids who live in homes that receive co-op electric service enjoy certain benefits, ranging from Youth Tour to college scholarships to school safety demonstrations.

"Engaging children is an important part of the cooperative difference," says Kristine Jackson, director of business development for Touchstone Energy Cooperatives, the national branding program for electric co-ops. "They're members in training."

Touchstone Energy Cooperatives offers lots of educational initiatives for kids, including safety, energy efficiency and learning how electricity works. Its Super Energy Saver program, featuring cartoon character CFL Charlie, for example, uses classroom activities and take-home items — such as light-switch covers that remind you to turn off the light when you leave the room — to show how simple steps can add up and make a difference in keeping electric bills affordable.

Touchstone Energy Cooperatives has also partnered with Discovery Education to offer "Get Charged! Electricity and You" curriculum kits designed to teach middle school students about electric cooperatives and electricity in general.

Concern for community

"Electric cooperatives are part of the fabric of the communities they serve. It's only natural they have a hand in improving the quality of life in their service areas," says Nelle Hotchkiss, senior vice president of corporate relations at the North Carolina Association of Electric Coopertives (NCAEC). NCAEC coordinates several statewide programs on behalf of the state's electric cooperatives designed to reach young people. These include the Youth Tour to Washington, the Bright Ideas grant program for teachers' extraordinary classroom projects, as well as scholarships for Youth Tour participants, basketball camp experiences and support for the state's 4-H programs.

"I have never felt so honored in my entire life," said Autmn M. Proctor of Cherryville, a senior at Cleveland County's Burns High School. She was sponsored by Rutherford EMC on the 2010 Youth Tour and received an NCAEC scholarship. "You have opened so many doors to me and my nursing career at Appalachian State."

North Carolina's Touchstone Energy cooperatives last month awarded more than $590,000 in Bright Ideas grants to deserving teachers across the state. The electric cooperatives received a record number of applications for Bright Ideas funding for the 2011–2012 school year. Since the program's inception in 1994, the cooperatives have awarded more than $7.3 million to North Carolina teachers, reaching more than 1.3 million students.

Co-ops also host an annual membership meeting, where kids are treated as honored guests, enjoying activities ranging from jugglers to face painting to bucket truck rides. Several of the state's co-ops offer a drawing for cash awards to students who earn an A in a grading period.

Support of children doesn't stop at the co-op's door. Many electric co-ops sponsor local clubs or school sports teams and community events like holiday parades. Co-ops also go to schools to teach kids about electrical safety, sponsor writing contests and attend job fairs.

To learn more about opportunities for your family, contact your electric cooperative.

About the Author

Magen Howard writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the service organization for the nation's 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.

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