Can you imagine a teenage boy who never left home before getting a chance to visit Washington, D.C., with 42 other students from across North Carolina? That is exactly what happened to me. Word of the mouth is how this story began. A neighbor told my grandmother about the Rural Electric Youth Tour and the opportunities it provided for teens like me. I applied and to my surprise, I was chosen to proudly represent Randolph Electric Membership Corporation and the counties they serve. What a thrill, I was going to our nation’s capital! This opportunity was a life-changing experience with fun-filled memories that will never be forgotten and I was nervous!
During my excursion through the Capital, we went to multiple tourist attractions such as the Lincoln Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the Newseum, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Arlington National Cemetery. At the Vietnam Memorial, we saw tens of thousands of names of soldiers who fought, died, or who were missing in action in the Vietnam War. My favorite memorial was the Korean War Veterans Memorial, a war that my great-grandfather was in. At this memorial, there are statues of soldiers holding their guns tightly in their hands as they walked through a forest. You can see the wariness on their faces. There is also a wall that goes around the memorial. Engraved on the wall is the phrase “FREEDOM IS NOT FREE.” Seeing that phrase made me stop and think of all the military personnel that gave their lives so we can have all the freedom and privileges we have today. Freedom is not free. It comes with a price of bloodshed and war. So often we take that for granted. I walked away from that memorial with a deeper admiration and gratitude towards the soldiers who fought for our freedom and for the ones who are still fighting for it. To all the men and women who are serving this wonderful country, thank you for your service!
In the middle of the week, we spent a whole day at Capitol Hill touring the Senate and the House of Representatives. Later that day, some of the N.C. representatives and Senator Thom Tillis came and talked to us. The heart of Senator Tillis’ message was that America can accomplish anything if our people would come together and meet in the middle by finding a compromise. Any solution could be found to any problem, regardless of which side of the poll you stand on. I also learned from Senator Tillis that you don’t need a long drawn-out process to find a solution. Sometimes, playing a simple board game can help you find your solutions faster and better than arguing for hours. I enjoyed listing to Senator Tillis’s speech and other representatives from North Carolina.
The trip to Washington was more than sightseeing. In those seven days, I saw complete strangers becoming best friends, self-confidence being built, and trust created. These interactions taught me a great deal of communication and people skills.
I now have a greater respect for people who speak publicly. Public speaking is hard to do no matter how well you know the information. It takes practice and time. I was once a shy guy, but now I know how to walk up to someone and strike up a conversation with them. We stayed in a hotel with more than 1,500 teenagers from all over the United States. I had North Carolina pins, lighthouse stickers, and scratch-n-sniff pickles stickers. The other teenagers from other states had pins and stickers from their states as well. We would introduce ourselves to each other and then swap pins or stickers. For some weird reason, everyone wanted the scratch-n-sniff pickle stickers. I became really good friends with my roommates. We plan to stay in touch with each other. We even decided to plan a trip to the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, along with other friends that we made while on the Youth Tour.
The Rural Electric Youth Tour was a fun-filled week where I made new friends and obtained reliable skills I will be able to use in the workforce and in my everyday life. This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I am grateful for the opportunity to have been chosen from REMC. This opportunity has opened many doors for me and I plan on taking advantage of it as much as possible. This memory is a chapter in my book that will forever be a highlight in my teen years, thanks to Dale Lambert, Kathleen Duckworth, Larry Routh, and all of the Randolph Electric members!
The Rural Electric Youth Tour is an opportunity for a rising high school Junior or Senior from REMC's service territory to go to Washington, D.C. with about 30 other high school students from all over North Carolina.