Students who were interested in taking part in either travel program were invited to submit essays to Barry Electric. The essay question for this year's contest was, "It's 2011, from your perspective as a junior in high school, what do you feel are the greatest challenges America faces in the next 10 years?"
A three-person panel of judges evaluated the student essays on knowledge, originality, composition, grammar and appearance of the entry.
Essays submitted by Exeter High School juniors Kandace Norman and Lane Pendergraft were selected as the top two entries. Norman and Pendergraft will attend Missouri Youth Tour June 10 through June 16.
MaCayla Coleman, from Cassville High School, and Patience Lewis, from Exeter High School, were selected as the runners-up in the essay contest. They will have the opportunity to attend Cooperative Youth Conference and Leadership Experience (CYCLE) July 13 through July 15.
Dr. Connie Butler, who served as a Nebraska Youth Tour delegate in 1992, was the special guest speaker at the reception held last Thursday.
"I'm very excited for you," said Butler. "When I moved here, one of the first people I met was Bill Shiveley (Barry Electric general manager and chief executive officer). While we were talking, I asked him, 'Do you send anyone to Youth Tour?'"
Although Butler did not have the opportunity to apply for Youth Tour through a cooperative, her parents funded her Washington, D.C., trip through the program. She recalled traveling with a group from Missouri.
"I remember that Missouri was required to dress up," said Butler. "So while many of the other students were walking around with T-shirts and shorts on, Missouri students were all dressed up.
"In retrospect, this was very meaningful and it really set Missouri's delegation apart," said Butler. "It was neat to visit these stunning, breathtaking sites, and being dressed up like we were, made it even more special."
While in Washington, D.C., Missouri Youth Tour participants visit the White House, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Iwo Jima Memorial, the Supreme Court, the National Cathedral, Ford's Theater, the Smithsonian and many other memorials and historic locations.
"Everything is covered," said Butler. "You get to do a night-time tour and go to a show at the Kennedy Center."
Butler made friends during her Youth Tour trip who she kept in touch with through college and after.
"This experience changed my life," said Butler. "I came from a town much smaller than Cassville, and my perspective was very small. As I traveled and met all the different people from the different states, I discovered that this is a big world, and I learned to dream big and challenge myself."
After participating in Youth Tour, Butler had the opportunity to serve on the program's youth consulting board. Later, she served on a committee that organized a national meeting in Dallas and returned to Washington, D.C., to assist with Youth Tour.
"I began serving as a junior staff member and had the opportunity to help with three or four tours," said Butler. "This was a big part of my high school days and a big part of me. You are not going to find a better tour or opportunity to meet students from other parts of the country."
Linda Sonder, of Ozark Electric, also attended the reception to talk about Missouri CYCLE, which gives students the opportunity to debate a bill on the floor of the Missouri Capitol and take part in many other activities.
"CYCLE is really educational and fun," said Sonder. "You will have a great time in Jefferson City."
This is the first year that Barry Electric has offered the Missouri Youth Tour and Missouri CYCLE programs. All high school juniors attending schools located in the cooperative's service area are eligible to compete in the contest.
For more information on the Youth Tour or CYCLE programs, call Kerry Mattingly, Barry Electric member services, at 847-2131 or visit www.youthtour.coop.