Editor’s Welcome: Youth Tour, an elder’s tale

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Shortly after I began working here as associate editor in 2019, my supervisor, Editor Sheila Yount, suggested a travel assignment.

“How would you like to go to Washington, D.C.?”

“Sure!” I blurted out before she could finish the question. While Arkansas has been my home for more than 25 years, I’m from Baltimore and went to college 15 miles from our nation’s capital. I started mentally packing and planning how I’d visit family, friends and favorite spots during any downtime.

I’d quickly learn, there’d be no downtime. There’d be nothing to pack but cooperative T-shirts and sneakers. And there was nothing to plan: A full itinerary had already been scheduled down to the millisecond for Youth Tour, a weeklong, educational tour in Washington, D.C., for cooperative delegates. Also, I’d need to focus 100% attention on my new family/friends, about 40 teenagers from around Arkansas.

I was going to be a, gulp, chaperone while writing our Arkansas Living story!

I jokingly asked Sheila, “Is this part of my pledge period? Am I being hazed?” Sheila, who had directed Youth Tour for several years, assured me the experience would indeed be exhausting but enriching. She couldn’t have been more correct on both counts.

Making memories in Washington, D.C., Youth Tour delegates take a selfie at the U.S. Capitol. Photo by Chance Allmon.

Growing up where I did, I absolutely took my proximity to the nation’s capital for granted. So, encountering the museums, monuments and memorials with wide-eyed students witnessing them for the first time gave me a whole new appreciation.

Not only had some Youth Tour delegates never visited D.C., some had never flown on a plane, and some had never left Arkansas. Besides, I had certainly never experienced D.C. in such VIP fashion: shaking hands with lawmakers; getting a tour of the U.S. Capitol from a congressman; viewing the House in session from the gallery; and receiving welcoming waves from members. What incredible memories the cooperatives gave our Youth Tour delegates.

And what incredible memories our Youth Tour delegates gave us! I still think of them often and enjoy keeping up with them on social media. Fellowshipping with this fine and fun bunch of student leaders filled me with excitement for our nation’s future.

Due to the pandemic, our 2019 trip had been the last in-person Youth Tour — until this year! In June, another great group of Arkansas students finally got to make the Washington, D.C., journey. Read about their trip in their own words, in this month’s issue.

If you’re going to be a junior in high school this year and you’d enjoy similar adventures next summer, reach out to your local cooperative about applying for Youth Tour 2023!

Just remember to be extra nice to your chaperones!

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