By Josh P. Crotzer
They may not be old enough to vote, but it’s never too early for high school students to learn about political advocacy and their civic duties.
Three local teens sponsored by York Electric Cooperative did just that at Cooperative Youth Summit, a four-day tour of the state capital and surrounding area.
Simon Sir-Elliot Cherry of Indian Land High School, Roman Phillips of Fort Mill High School and Heather Greenwald of Indian Land High School were among 45 South Carolina student-delegates that toured the State House, met Gov. Henry McMaster and learned about their government and their cooperatives. Cooperative Youth Summit students also heard from two state legislators—Rep. Micah Caskey and Rep. Russell Ott.
“That really opened my eyes,” says Sir- Elliott Cherry. “We can have a big impact on our future by the choices we make. We have the best form of government in the history of mankind, and we have to protect it.”
The student-delegates also participated in a mock healthcare legislation exercise. With three different proposals, each side tried to sway votes toward a two-thirds majority vote to pass the faux legislation. Cooperative Youth Summit students also teamed up to produce their own podcasts, interviewing legislators and leaders in their community on what makes South Carolina a great place to live and ways it can improve.
The students traveled to Newberry Electric Cooperative, a visit highlighted by a lift high in the air in one of the NEC’s bucket trucks, which are typically used in maintenance and restoration work on utility poles. They also saw the cooperative’s community solar farm and learned about how the cooperative has made high-speed broadband available to its entire membership.
Student-delegates also participated in the Soda Pop Co-op, which sold snacks and beverages. Some students served as the cooperative’s board members. Others were a part of the management team. All students received cash back as their share of the end of the trip margins. The exercise allowed the students to learn first-hand how the not-for-profit co-op business model works.