Florida Youth Tour Inspires Local Students

When Lafayette High School junior Grace Jackson sat on the floor of the Florida House of Representatives for a mock debate, appreciation for the Youth Tour experience sank in. As she took in the room from the perspective of a state lawmaker, she realized what a unique opportunity she had been given.“That was probably my favorite part because we got to see what it’s like to be a representative,” she says. “You’ll never get to do that again. I would definitely recommend it to any student who is interested.”

Jackson was one of 10 local high school students who attended the Florida Electric Cooperatives 2018 Tallahassee Youth Tour in February, courtesy of Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative. Each student applied and was chosen based on their GPA and a written essay.

Students toured the Governor’s Mansion, held a mock bill debate on the floor of the House of Representatives, and visited the state Supreme Court and the Museum of Florida History.

Hunter McCulley, left, Daniel Hendrick, Hanna McCray, Sarah-Beth Lee, Sara McWaters, Destiny Fennell, Grace Jackson, Dawson Hall and Christian Rodriguez visit the Florida State Capitol.

For Christian Rodriguez, a home- school junior, the sites weren’t necessarily new. As vice president of the Florida 4-H State Council, he planned and attended trips to Tallahassee before, but the opportunity to meet students from throughout the state was some- thing unique.

“I’d done most of the stuff on that trip before, but getting to do it with this group of people I hadn’t spent much time with is what made the tour so fun,” he says.

Rodriguez also feels that the experience will serve him well as he begins working toward his goal of a career in Christian radio.

“We’re talking to not only young people from around the state but also to senators and representatives,” he says. “It really helps me learn how to talk on the fly in a way that I will need to do on radio.”

The experience was similarly formative for Jackson, who had already been thinking about pursuing a law career and was particularly impacted by her visit to the Supreme Court.

“That really solidified what I want to do as a lawyer,” she says. “I want to work with justices and with representatives to help them make our state a better place.”

Both Jackson and Rodriguez will represent SVEC at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Youth Tour in Washington, D.C., this June. While Rodriguez is looking forward to the chance to meet new people from different cultures, Jackson is eager to see students like her take their first steps toward national leadership.

“I believe that it’s very important for students like us to be involved in politics and our government,” she says. “I think that’s going to be beyond amazing.”