December 01st, 2023

southern pioneer students• Southern Pioneer Electric


Two students from Southern Pioneer Electric’s service territory attended the 58th Annual Electric Cooperative Youth Tour with 1,800 peers from across the nation. Youth Tour took place June 7 through 14. 

Each participant was chosen through a written application and interview process. Selected as this year’s representatives were Liberal’s Joshua Diazdeleon and Medicine Lodge’s Makalah Henke.

These students joined teens from across Kansas and Hawaii to spend a week touring Washington, D.C. There, these student leaders learned more about our history, our government, the co-op business model, and how to become community leaders.

“Being able to be in the physical presence of our nation’s Capital made me realize just how amazing our American Democracy is,” Diazdeleon said. “Whether it was touring the White House or visiting Fort McHenry, the idea that our country has stood strong since its founding has made me appreciate the men and women who have helped lay the foundation.”

While in D.C., the students tour the White House, the U.S. Capitol, the Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Smithsonian museums, Mount Vernon, Arlington National Cemetery, the National Cathedral and many memorials and historical sites. The students also attended a professional baseball game, a theater performance at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts and saw the pandas at the National Zoo. 

Henke said, “I was so inspired by the history of our country. All of the pictures in textbooks came to life. Also, being in the city away from my small town opened my eyes to many options.”

As part of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s National Youth Day on June 11, all of the state groups convened to learn from inspirational speakers. This year’s keynote speaker is Mike Schlappi, a four-time Paralympic Medalist and two-time world wheelchair basketball champion, who shared his inspiring message, “Just because you can’t stand up doesn’t mean you can’t stand out!”