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Earlier this summer, outstanding students from across Georgia, including Cole Reynolds from Leesburg, returned from the Washington Youth Tour, a week-long leadership experience exclusively for teens sponsored by Sumter EMC and other electric cooperatives in Georgia.

From June 17-23, Cole joined accomplished and ambitious peers in Washington, D.C. to understand the importance of civic engagement, tour national historic sites, and learn valuable leadership lessons they can utilize in their communities back home. The lessons learned by students cannot be replicated in the classroom.

Sumter EMC believes that this carefully chaperoned tour of the nation's capital, full of our national treasures, provides an opportunity for an enriched history lesson and a unique experience that includes interactive exhibits and firsthand accounts. Cole was one of four delegates selected to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Considering his father's military background with the U.S. Marines, laying the wreath was a highlight of Cole’s trip and an experience that meant the world to him.

In Georgia, this year's contingent included student delegates, chaperones, and tour directors who attended a kick-off banquet in Atlanta for the student delegates and their families before departing the next day for D.C. for the remainder of the trip.

 "The students watch history come to life as they walk and talk in the same places where people have helped shape our country," says Andrea Walker, VP of Marketing and Administration with Sumter EMC.

"They also meet delegates from across the country with different backgrounds, life experiences, and walks of life to give them a broader perspective and deeper appreciation of the world at large." 

With a firm commitment to enriching our future, the purpose of the Youth Tour is to help EMCs develop our state's most precious resource, our youth.

While in D.C., stops included Mount Vernon, Arlington Cemetery, U.S. Capitol, National Cathedral, and the Smithsonian Museums. The students also toured the revered Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, MLK, WWII, Vietnam, and Korean War memorials.

In addition to taking in the sights of the nation's capital, students gained perspective on some of today's critical issues and their role as involved citizens. Everyone had the opportunity to engage with staff and members of Georgia's congressional delegation, as well as a visit with U.S. Senators Raphael Warnock and John Ossoff.

Over 50,000 students from rural areas and small towns across America have participated in this program. Some Youth Tour alumni have gone on to design airplanes, lead companies, and serve in the highest ranks of government, including the U.S. Senate, and many more are serving in some roles in state and local government.

Photos from this year's tour are posted on the national Youth Tour Web site at