Curiosity about the world, ambition and confidence have driven Maria Howard to excel at Georgetown University, where the eastern Tennessee native is a senior.
Howard, 22, attributes that strong sense of self to her experiences as a 2018 Youth Tour participant sponsored by Rogersville-based Holston Electric Cooperative—and subsequent opportunities as a Youth Leadership Council delegate and Youth Tour staff assistant, or “Blue Shirt,” for two years.
“I was more confident going into college and being around new faces and making friends with people from all across the country,” she said.
Howard’s Youth Tour experience is also helping her graduate debt-free from the prestigious school in Washington, D.C. She is the 2023 recipient of a $10,000 prize from the Glenn English National Cooperative Leadership Foundation Scholarship, a program open to Youth Tour alumni.
Since 2014, the foundation has awarded more than $100,000 in scholarships. Awards consist of one $10,000 scholarship and four $1,000 scholarships.
Howard is interested in graduate school, “where there isn’t as much financial aid offered. So, it will be nice to have a financial clean slate. It definitely takes the stress away and broadens my options.”
A politics and culture major in Georgetown’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, Howard will soon finish her second study-abroad program at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. Last fall, she lived with a host family in Strasbourg, France, for a semester. This time, she lives in university housing with students from all over the world.
“All of my classes were in French, and I was living with a host family. Here, I’m directly enrolled in the university as if I were a Kiwi, just taking classes,” Howard said, referring to the nickname for New Zealanders. “I love them both, but they’re very different experiences.”
Howard has friends and contacts scattered throughout the world. When conversation turns to hometowns, her short answer is “the southeastern part of America.” But when she has more time, she will point out Rogersville on the map. “A decent amount of people know about Nashville. And then I also get a lot of comments about Tennessee whiskey, which is funny because I didn’t know that was such a well-known thing abroad!”
Get to know more about Howard and the other 2023 Glenn English scholars:
Holston Electric Cooperative, Rogersville, Tennessee
Education: Senior at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Double major in politics and culture.
Dream job: “I’m attracted to social work because it has such a broad scope and there are so many different jobs within the field. I like working directly with people, especially children.”
Hometown and what you like best about it: Rogersville, Tennessee. “I don’t spend a ton of time at home, but when I run into friends when I’m visiting, we can pick up right where we left off, and I feel like time hasn't really passed.”
Youth Tour year and how the experience shaped you: 2018. “I think Youth Tour, and all the other electric cooperative opportunities that followed, made me more confident going into college. I was more confident being around new faces and making friends with people from all across the country.”
What would you like people to know about electric co-ops? “Electric cooperatives are not the only cooperatives out there. In the same way that electric cooperatives are the best way to get electricity to consumers, other cooperatives also often provide more equitable services than their for-profit competitors. I like how the cooperative business model challenges the idea that businesses making profits should be the main concern, instead of customer needs.”
HILCO Electric Cooperative, Itasca, Texas
Education: Senior at Grambling State University, Grambling, Louisiana. Major in business marketing. Minor in mass communication.
Dream job: “I would love to be a digital marketer and a news anchor. I enjoy sharing stories digitally and speaking with others to share and communicate newsworthy topics.”
Hometown and what you like best about it: Cedar Hill, Texas. “I like the small-town feel and access to all the amenities near me in Dallas and Fort Worth.”
Youth Tour year and how the experience shaped you: 2022. “Youth Tour showed me how to navigate unfamiliar territory with unfamiliar people. I met new friends and enjoyed the experiences in Austin and D.C. Although I have visited these places with my family before, the experiences were different being on my own. As a result, my transition to college in a different state was not bad.”
What would you like people to know about electric co-ops? “As a young adult, my experience with co-ops has been rewarding, and I can truly say the relationships are like family. I enjoy the conversations with our co-op’s marketing director, who has influenced me on how I have been successful in college with her encouragement to just enjoy life and experiences.”
Magic Valley Electric Cooperative, Mercedes, Texas
Education: Senior at University of Pennsylvania, The Wharton School. Major in economics with a concentration in business economics and public policy.
Dream job: "I would love to do something related to financing sustainable projects whether it be at a startup, private equity firm, or even on the policy side. I'm specifically interested in anything related to climate, energy, water and/or agriculture."
Hometown and what you like best about it: Edinburg, Texas. “Whenever I go back l love the memories it brings back, plus the food is awesome!"
Youth Tour year and how the experience shaped you: 2018. “Youth Tour educated me on duty to the community, grew my confidence in my impact potential, and then gave me a vessel to do it through. It showed me the impact just one girl from Texas could have. I have a goal of one day becoming a U.S. senator, and Youth Tour took me into the Senate chambers. I will never forget the feeling that I got that day. Lastly, it channeled all that energy and let us work on different projects such as voter registration, curbing the rural brain drain, and even personifying the unique problems within the electric system."
What would you like people to know about electric co-ops? “There is much work left to do in the mission to provide sustainable energy to America, so find ways you can contribute to your co-op. They are doing great things and are always open to community engagement. Also, do not forget to attend your annual meeting!"
Paola Godina Salas
Mt. Wheeler Power, Ely, Nevada
Education: Sophomore at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Double major in political science and economics with a concentration in quantitative economics and data analytics.
Dream job: “At my core, I want to explain why things are the way that they are. My wish is to combine my loves for social science and data analytics as a data or policy analyst. I’d also like to use my interest in policy to take part in the legislative process.”
Hometown and what you like best about it: Ely, Nevada. “My second year away from home has made me grow fonder of my hometown, a rural area surrounded by miles of nature. Growing up and seeing the gorgeous Nevada mountains against the blue sky the moment I step outside reminds me to continue to look up no matter where I am. My hometown has a population of around 4,000 people; I liked the freedom that sort of environment gave me.”
Youth Tour year and how the experience shaped you: 2022. “As a young person beginning her educational and early career journey, Youth Tour had a big impact on what I thought was possible. When you visit your nation's capital, it brings into perspective the capabilities a person can have. Collective efforts by all the working people in D.C. to maintain many industries show the capacity that well-intentioned work can have.”
What would you like people to know about electric co-ops: “I have met so many wonderful people through the programs provided by co-ops and have come to understand their impact within their communities—whether that be through policy/advocacy work, electrical expertise or administrative aid. Many of these efforts work to not only better people’s lives but also help to bring them closer together.”
Adams Electric Cooperative, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Education: Junior at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Major in biological systems engineering. Minors in Spanish and biomedical engineering.
Dream job: “Work for a biotechnology company that has a positive atmosphere where I can work with other engineers who are outgoing, innovative and share the same values as me. Ultimately, I would like to perform work that will help solve human health and sustainability problems that exist in our world today.”
Hometown and what you like best about it: Felton, Pennsylvania. “Something I like best about my hometown is that it is small, and most people are willing to give the shirt off their backs to help each other.”
Youth Tour year and how experience shaped you: 2020. “I didn't have the opportunity to participate in the Youth Tour due to COVID, but I was able to listen to the experiences my parents and grandparents had and understand how valuable the trip is, especially in terms of community involvement and personal growth. Learning about this opportunity and the positive impact that it has had on my family has inspired me to continue looking for ways to get involved in the community and be open to new experiences.”
What would you like people to know about electric co-ops? “Customers are considered member-owners and have the ability to make decisions for their co-op by voting and voicing their opinions. This is something really important for people living in rural areas, and it sets electric co-ops apart from other utility companies who don't know their customers or listen to their opinions.”