Leaders of tomorrow represent their co-op on Youth Day

For the first time since 2019, the Illinois Electric and Telephone Cooperatives Youth Day returned following a three-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly 200 students representing 22 Illinois electric and telephone cooperatives had the opportunity to visit the State Capitol, view state government in action and question their legislators on key issues.

“Youth Day is designed to introduce young rural leaders to state government,” said Brooke Gross, who coordinates youth programs at the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives. “Not only do these students interact with their elected officials, they learn more about their electric or telephone cooperative’s role in their own community.”

Representative Norine Hammond (R-94) met with Mitchell Sparrow and Emma Whitaker, students representing Western Illinois Electrical Coop., during Youth Day on Wednesday, March 29 in Springfield. Mitchell is a sophomore at Burlington Notre Dame and the son of Byron and Jennifer Sparrow of Stronghurst. Emma is a junior at Illini West and the daughter of James and Holly Whitaker of Carthage.

Mitchell Sparrow and Emma Whitaker

During lunch, Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs addressed the students. He discussed how he got into politics and encouraged them to follow their passions in life. In addition, students learned more about the cooperative program.

Participants also met Abigail Meyer, the 2022-23 Illinois Youth Leadership Council Representative from Tri-County Electric Cooperative. She spoke about her experiences on the Youth to Washington Tour and challenged attendees to maintain an interest in their cooperatives and the political process. In the afternoon, the students visited the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Lincoln Home National Historic Site.

Participants were interviewed for the chance to participate in the Youth to Washington Tour, to be held June 16-23, 2023. Both Mitchell and Emma will represent Western Illinois Electrical Coop. on the weeklong trip to meet their elected officials, see historic sites, learn firsthand how cooperatives work and gain valuable leadership skills.