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Students visit nation's capital

Article was added on Monday, June 20, 2016

The 2016 Washington Youth Tour brought state's largest group ever2016 Youth Tour

Azavia Scott, Allie Blake and Chandler Swicord represented Santee Electric Cooperative.

A record number of students from S.C. joined more than 1,600 from across the country for the 2016 Washington Youth Tour. The group from the Palmetto State, numbering 78 rising high school seniors and eight chaperones, made this year's tour the biggest yet.

"We've nearly doubled in size since I first started working at Statewide," said Van O'Cain, coordinator of the state's Youth Tour efforts and a member of the ECSC staff since 2006. "It's been wonderful to see it grow the way it has."

Now in its 52nd year, the trip allows students to see their nation's capital - from the monuments to museums - and learn about the political process and interact with their elected officials.

Among the highlights of this year's trip that began early Saturday morning (5 a.m.!) and ended Thursday morning:

  • Students formed a Soda Pop Co-op Saturday evening, electing a board of directors who then hired a general manager. Throughout the trip, students purchased steeply discounted drinks and snacks provided by the Soda Pop Co-op. Business was brisk this year and the co-op dissolved Wednesday night in sound financial standing: each member received $6 in capital credits. 
  • South Dakota joined forces with South Carolina for a boat cruise on the Potomac River. The two-hour ride gave students "a chance to interact with people from entirely different backgrounds and cultures," says O'Cain. 
  • Tuesday, Capitol Hill hosted more than 1,000 Youth Tour students who traveled there to meet their elected representatives, staffers and to learn more about the mechanics of the federal government. U.S. Rep. Tom Rice, who represents the 7th Congressional District and lives in Myrtle Beach, surprised the 16 tourists that arrived at his office. Rice broke from his desk and gave the group a private, personal tour of the nation's capitol.

Weary, exhausted and a little emotional at the end, the students returned to S.C. early Thursday. Six days previous, they largely were strangers. It was a different story when the tour was finally over.

"Hugs and tears every year," O'Cain said of the scene at the airport Thursday. "But when it happens, I know this trip is something they'll always remember."   

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