An NRECA summer tradition returns with the arrival of the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour to the nation’s capital June 15-23.

This year’s group includes more than 2,000 youth delegates, chaperones and staff, along with nearly four dozen bus drivers who will chauffeur them in and around Washington, D.C. Forty-four states are represented this year.

The 2024 event will bring all delegates together over the course of one week, compared to being spread out over a two-week period during the past two years to accommodate pandemic concerns.

“We’re back to one week, and we’re so happy that this year’s delegates will have a full-strength experience,” said Beth Knudson, NRECA’s youth programs and training manager.

Also of note: The action will take place in a new venue, Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland. Organizers said the sprawling Youth Tour had outgrown its previous venue, the Hyatt Regency in Crystal City, Virginia.

“We outgrew the Hyatt years back in 2017 when we had an overflow room for the “all state” events [Youth Day and farewell party],” Knudson said. “And it was a priority for NRECA and the Youth Tour directors to get our whole group together.”

The formal Youth Day program will take place June 19. It will include a panel on the global impact of cooperatives, featuring three speakers: 2017 Youth Leadership Spokesperson Sylandi Brown, a communications manager at U.S. Overseas Cooperative Development Council, International Cooperative Research Group; NRECA International consultant Zuraidah Hoffman; and Ryan White, a multimedia communication specialist at Seminole Electric Cooperative in Tampa, Florida. Motivational speaker Mike Schlappi, a wheelchair basketball player who has appeared in four consecutive summer Paralympic Games, will also address the Youth Tour delegates.

Other activities include a Co-op 101 session and advocacy program taught by NRECA’s Government Relations staff. “Blue Shirts,” past Youth Tour participants, also will be on hand this year.

In North Dakota, 16 youth delegates and four adult chaperones will make the trip this year, waking up at 5 a.m. to catch a pre-dawn flight from Bismarck to Washington, D.C., via Minneapolis. Co-ops take turns sending chaperones, and this year it’s Columbus-based Burke-Divide Electric Cooperative’s turn.

Assistant Youth Tour Coordinator Krista Rausch, also a communication specialist at Mandan-based North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives, is looking forward to this year’s full-strength Youth Day.

“It’ll be so cool to see so many states represented. I can’t wait!”