Appalachian Electric Essay Contest

Write an essay:

Win a Trip to Washington, D.C.

Plans are underway for the 2017 Youth to Washington Tour and Essay Contest.  The tour is scheduled for June 10 - 16 with an orientation meeting in Great Falls on June 9.  Airfare from Great Falls to Washington, D.C., is paid along with lodging, meals and admission to events.  Contest rules are:

  • The student must be a junior or senior in high school in the fall of 2017.
  • The student cannot be a prior winner of the youth tour.
  • The student and/or parent or guardian must be served by a rural electric cooperative that is a member of the Montana Electric Cooperatives’ Association.
  • The student must write an essay of 400 words or less (double spaced) on the topic:"Why should I be chosen to represent Fergus Electric Cooperative on the 2017 Youth to Washington, D.C. tour.

Essays should include a cover page with the student’s name, address, telephone number and the cooperative’s name.  Essays and applications are due December 2, 2016.  Mail them to: Youth Tour Essay Contest, Fergus Electric Cooperative, 84423 US Highway 87, Lewistown, MT  59457.

This application form must accompany the essay. It is also available on the MECA website at under the youth tab. The 2017 Youth Tour Complete Resource Guide provides more information in regards to this contest.

Montana Electric Cooperatives’ Association in Great Falls selects a state winner and Fergus Electric also sponsors a student.  For additional information, contact Vangie at 538-3465.

Previous Winner

Each June, 25 Montana high school juniors and seniors go to Washington, D.C. as young ambassadors for rural electric cooperatives. Representatives are selected by writing an essay on a specific topic. Information and the topic will appear on this page in October and in the Fergus Features newsletter in Rural Montana at the same time. The winner for 2017, Alyssa Thomas of Hobson, wrote on the topic: "Why should I be chosen to represent Fergus Electric Cooperative on the 2017 Youth to Washington, D.C. tour."

Alyssa Thomas


2017 Winning Essay 

There are many different reasons why I should be selected to represent Fergus Electric Cooperative on the 2017 Youth to Washington D.C. Tour. This would be a great opportunity for me to see and live the history of my country through monuments and museums in Washington D.C., to learn about the importance of coops, and also to develop a better understanding of the history that we don't see everyday in rural Montana.

In the past,  I have not enjoyed history because I was just like the average student who thought it was "boring." However, after reading about this tour I’ve realized that history is very important and also how much more exciting it would be to see these monuments in person rather than in a text book. I mean, who wouldn’t enjoy learning about our country in Washington D.C.?

Learning about history can be much more exciting than we think. In my opinion, this trip to Washington D.C. would open my eyes to how important history really is. History, in my opinion, is what makes us well rounded people. Without history, we wouldn't know how America got to where it is or about any of the great events that have happened in or prior to our lives. Without the knowledge, we have today we might not be a world leader.  Going on this tour would further educate me to those events, and make me appreciate our country even more than I already do.

Although learning about our country is the biggest reason that I would enjoy being selected for this tour, learning more about the importance of our Rural Electric Cooperatives would be the second reason. Without Electric Cooperatives, our lives wouldn't be the same and this trip wouldn’t be possible. They help millions of people (including us) everyday by providing us with safe and affordable energy.

In conclusion, I believe that I should be selected for this tour because it would be very beneficial to learning about the country in which I live. Without historical events, the world would be much different than it is today. We need history in our daily lives and learning about it in Washington D.C. on this tour would make it a memorable experience of learning about history itself.


The Washington Youth Tour Writing Contest is a wonderful opportunity for a weeklong, all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC, open to high school junior students.  Think of the short story as an infomercial, through entertaining dialogue among the writer's characters, which promotes electric cooperatives and all the benefits they bring to the members.  Most importantly, after reading the short story the individual should have a clear understanding that an electric cooperative is a not-for-profit, member owned distributor of electricity which ensures the future success of its service area by powering the potential of the community.  The students should have a clear understanding of the ways co-ops go beyond merely providing electricity by offering valuable programs and resources to their members.  Of course, we want to be entertained when reading, yet we need the stories to be centered on the cooperative concept.  Therefore, the judging percentages are structured to reflect this.

  • Appropriate treatment of theme and knowledge of subject will be 50%.
  • Originality will account for 35%.
  • Grammar and composition will be 15%.

What is an Electric Cooperative?

  • Consumer-owned provider of electricity; owned and operated on a not-for-profit basis.
  • The consumers are the members, who are also the owners. 
  • Your parents, who pay a bill, are the owners of the electric cooperative, and you are future members.
  • We have a Board of Directors, and each year Cooperatives hold an annual meeting and members vote on the directors, allowing for democratic control.
  • One of the responsibilities of cooperatives is to educate members.  We do so through youth programs, such as Washington Youth Tour, The Tennessee Magazine, Home Shows, bill inserts, Facebook, and our website.

This is not a research paper, but we do want you to grasp what it means to be a member of an electric cooperative.  Do not try to include every detail, program, and resource provided.  If you attempt to do so, then your story is not going to be very entertaining.  It is strongly suggested that students primarily incorporate a few of the concepts listed below into their short story.  This will prevent information overload witnessed in the past.  I have provided some information which pertains to these concepts.

  • Green Power
    • The Green Power Switch Program was developed as a way to bring clean, green power to members.  You can buy green power, generated by cleaner, renewable resources such as solar, wind, and methane gas, in 150-kilowatt-hour blocks.  Each block purchased adds only $4 to your monthly power bill.
    • The Green Power Providers Program provides technical support and incentives for the installation of renewable generation systems. The program makes more green power available for Green Power Switch subscribers, and it creates a market for green power generation by homeowners and businesses.
  • Energy efficiency-encourages and supports the wise and efficient use of electricity in homes.
    • Why do Cooperatives encourage Energy Efficiency?
      • The Southeast is among the most inefficient regions of the country, wasting tremendous amounts of energy that is generated primarily from high-risk, nonrenewable resources like coal.  The historically irresponsible use of energy in the Southeast means there is tremendous potential for energy efficiency to address growing energy demand and lower the cost of the members’ bills.  Energy efficiency makes economic, social and environmental sense.
    • The eScore Energy Evaluation Program is designed to encourage the installation of energy-efficiency improvements in existing single-family dwellings, providing an outline for potential energy-efficiency modifications.  Home improvements completed may qualify for cash incentives. 
    • The Commercial Efficiency Advice and Incentive Program helps commercial customers manage their energy more efficiently. 
    • The Energy Right Solutions for Businesses Program is designed to achieve maximum reduction benefits during the highest periods of demand.  Growth in the use of electricity has increased power purchases from other suppliers to meet summer peak power demand. This program can help reduce the amount of power being purchased from these more costly sources. That helps keep energy costs lower for all consumers.
  • Youth programs
    • Washington Youth Tour Writing Contest.  Tennessee's electric co-ops send students to Washington, DC, for a number of reasons including:
      • Rewarding students for academic achievement through a writing contest;
      • Educating students about the role of electric co-ops in the national economy;
      • Fostering students' appreciation for the democratic form of government;
      • Exposing students to the sights and sounds of our nation's heritage; and
      • Building students' leadership skills so that they may make a difference in their communities.
    • Youth Leadership Summit is designed for leadership development and state government education. It is free to selected high school juniors. It consists of two days of intensive educational activities, as well as a lot of fun.
    • Electric Camp is an exciting, fun-filled adventure exploring the laws of science and electricity. It is for 6th and 7th grade 4-H students and is held at the University of Tennessee Knoxville Campus each summer. It consists of hands-on activities in which students learn about the safe and proper use of electricity, as well as aspects of other sciences.
    • School Safety Programs - At a teacher’s request, a trained cooperative representative will bring electrical safety to life with a fun and informative presentation to help students respect and value the role electricity plays in their lives.  Regardless of age, there are classroom demonstrations, hands-on projects, and visual materials to help make learning about electricity an enjoyable and educational experience.
  • Job creation/Industrial development
    • Electric Cooperatives are very active in their local Chambers of Commerce, and encourage and support the birth and growth of businesses in the area.
    • Many General Managers and Board Members serve on local industrial boards, which are responsible for recruiting new industries and promoting economic growth.
    • The Valley Investment Initiative is available as an economic development incentive providing credits on power bills to qualifying companies that locate or expand in the region.  In today's competitive climate, the program offers significant economic advantages.
  • Community Organizations and Events
    • Cooperative managers, board members, and employees take active roles in sustaining the development of their communities.  Through civic organizations such as the American Red Cross, The United Way, The Rotary Foundation, The Boys and Girls Club, Boy Scouts of America, Girls Scouts of America, and Kiwanis International, your cooperative employees volunteer their time and make donations to help improve the lives of those in need.
    • Environmental events, such as a lake cleanup or the planting of trees, are just more ways your cooperative works to improve the community.
    • Working together with local community service organizations, your cooperative contributes to a program to help elderly, disabled, and financially burdened individuals who have limited incomes.  The funds contributed by members and the cooperative provide a once-a-year payment to ensure those who meet specific criteria are able to maintain electrical service during the winter.  For those who have recently lost their jobs, live on a limited income, or have endured other hardships, this assistance means that they do not have to choose between heat and food.

In the story, you need to encompass the theme, and include future goals of your community, through your participation, and the assistance of the Electric Cooperatives.  Example:  Tommy knew the community’s future depended upon the power of citizens, like himself, making a difference.  By supporting energy efficiency and energy conservation, he and his local electric cooperative would harness the potential to make substantial changes in the years to come.


Finally, the following guidelines may not be specifically stated in the new booklet, and students need to be aware of the following rules.

  • Short story must be typewritten and double-spaced in 12 pt. font of Arial, Courier New, Calibri, or Times New Roman.
  • Short story must include a cover page including the title “Electric Cooperatives: Powering Potential” and an exact word count.
  • Short story cannot be over 900 words.  “A,” “and,” and “the” count as words.
  • The name of the student’s cooperative, school, town, or county should not be used.  A fictitious name is acceptable.
  • Students should save their short stories to memory stick or a personal pc, and those who make it to the semi-finals will need to provide their teacher with the electronic version.
  • Students should not refer to cooperatives as “non-profit” organizations.  The correct terminology is not-for-profit.

Check out the 2018 Resource Booklet Here

For more information, please go to


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