A Trip to Remember

Local students represent SVEC on Washington Youth Tour

Students from North Florida meet with Congressmen Matt Gaetz, Dr. Neal Dunn and Al Lawson.

Grace Jackson and Christian Rodriguez had both visited Washington, D.C., but their visit during the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour was a whole new experience. From June 9-14, the representatives for Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative had a full schedule.

“Every day was jam-packed with different stuff to see,” says Rodriguez. “I’d been to D.C. before, but I didn’t realize how much of it I hadn’t seen until I went on this trip.”

Both students had the opportunity to visit all of the major monuments in the nation’s capital and appreciated the expert guides who filled them in on the meaning and symbolism of each one.

For Jackson, the highlight of the trip was a visit to Arlington Cemetery. She was amazed by the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Rodriguez especially appreciated the visit to the National Museum of American History, which contains exhibits about both the country’s political and pop culture history.

“I don’t think people give enough credit to entertainment for what it does,” he says. “Our nation wouldn’t be the way it is if there wasn’t something to move people forward, so I thought it was really interesting to study and to see how entertainment has changed throughout the years.”

Jackson and Rodriguez also had the opportunity to meet with Florida lawmakers, including congressmen Dr. Neal Dunn, Al Lawson and Matt Gaetz, as well as one of National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s lobbyists. Along the way, they even learned about what sets cooperatives apart from other electric providers.

“A cooperative really is the pinnacle of what it means to be an American,” says Rodriguez. “It’s people who saw a problem — like there’s no power in rural areas and no one’s going to do anything about it — and decided to do something about it themselves.”

The experience was formative for both students, who enjoyed meeting other attendees from around the country but who were also inspired to think about their lives after graduation. One of the standout moments of the tour for Jackson was a visit to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, where attendees sat in on a morning briefing in the operations room.

While there, they spoke with Alex Amparo, deputy assistant administrator of the National Preparedness Directorate. Amparo, who also took part in the Youth Tour as a student, told them about his career and how he came to work at FEMA.

“He said he was given such a wonderful life and he wanted the chance to give back,” Jackson says. “So he got an education and used the opportunities given to him, and now he helps people every day. That really stuck with me. I want to do that.”