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SSEMC youths in DC
Megan Conley, Aaron Barron and Lauren Smith represented Snapping Shoals EMC on the 2013 Washington Youth Tour. - photo by Submitted Photo

Three students from Snapping Shoals EMC’s service territory recently returned from a week-long leadership experience for teens sponsored by the electric cooperatives in Georgia.  Aaron Barron of Conyers, Megan Conley of Jackson and Lauren Smith of Loganville were chosen earlier this year to represent SSEMC on the 2013 Washington Youth Tour. Aaron is the son of Rosolynn and Niguel Barron; Megan is the daughter of Kim and Mike Conley; and Lauren is the daughter of Wylene and Timothy Smith.

Each June, high school students from Georgia join approximately 1,600 of their talented and ambitious peers in Washington, D.C. to learn leadership skills, understand the importance of civic involvement and tour the nation’s historic sites. When combined, the various aspects of the trip provide a unique lesson that cannot be duplicated in any classroom.

 “The students come away with a new appreciation for the history of the country they live in, an interest in government and their elected representatives, and a new sense of responsibility when they realize how many people sacrificed for us so we could all live in a free society,” says Leigh-Anne Burgess, Communications Specialist and Washington Youth Tour Coordinator for Snapping Shoals EMC. “We think it’s important to bring along the next generation of young people and teach them the importance of leadership and public service,” says Burgess.

This year, 106 students and 14 chaperones from Georgia participated in the Tour with a kick-off banquet in Atlanta, emceed by WSB-TV’s Sophia Choi. Before heading to D.C., the group toured the FDR Little White House in Warm Springs, the birthplace of the rural electricity movement.

In D.C., highlights included visits to Arlington Cemetery, U.S. Capitol, National Archives (where they viewed the Declaration of Independence), Supreme Court, Library of Congress and the Smithsonian museums. The students also toured the revered Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, MLK, WWII, Vietnam and Korean War memorials.

The Georgia delegation visited a new stop this year — Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor — the site of a famous battle in the War of 1812 that inspired Francis Scott Key’s “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

In addition to taking in the sights of the nation’s capital, students gained perspective on some of today’s important issues and their role as involved citizens. Everyone had the opportunity to engage with staff and/or members of Georgia's congressional delegation, including personal visits with leaders Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson and U.S. Reps. Jack Kingston, Sanford Bishop, Lynn Westmoreland, Austin Scott, Doug Collins, Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey, John Barrow, Tom Graves and Rob Woodall’s Chief of Staff.

Finally, all of the state groups convened for National Youth Day, sponsored by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, to learn from public figures and other inspirational speakers, including Jo Ann Emerson, NRECA’s new chief executive officer.

Over the past 50 years, more than 50,000 young citizens have traveled to Washington with the help of their electric cooperatives. The 2013 delegates follow an esteemed group of recent WYT alumni who have graduated as valedictorians, salutatorians and STAR students. Others are now working as congressional aides and as federal agency staff, and many more are serving in some role in state and local government.

Applications for the 2014 Washington Youth Tour will be available in September at or by calling 770-385-2888.