Young leaders return to the Cooperative Youth Conference and Leadership Experience
When Twin Rivers High School student Hannah Patterson found out she’d been selected by her local co-op to spend part of her summer vacation in Jefferson City, she admits she didn’t know what to expect. At the end of the Cooperative Youth Conference and Leadership Experience, known as CYCLE, the Qulin native recalled when the words of NFL mascot Dan Meers made everything click into place.
“The first thing he taught us was that every day you get a choice on how you’re going to spend your coin,” says Hannah, who was sponsored by Ozark Border Electric. “‘Are you going to invest it and better your life, better yourself and better your relationships?’ That has changed my life.” And those kinds of moments are why Missouri’s electric co-ops send students to unlock their potential as the next generation of rural leaders.
“This is one way electric cooperatives show commitment to their communities, by investing in the students who are going to be the leaders of tomorrow,” says Chris Massman, vice president of member services for the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives and CYCLE coordinator.
“CYCLE provides an opportunity for students to find leadership themselves, learn about government and cooperatives, and make new friends from across the state in a fun, fast-paced environment.”
Celebrating its 19th year in 2022, CYCLE brings students from around the state to Jefferson City for three days of activities, learning and fun. In between motivational speakers, team building and excursions to local landmarks, delegates learn about state history, government and electric cooperatives. This year’s delegates comprised 91 high school sophomores and juniors sent by 33 electric cooperatives, AMEC and the Missouri Institute of Cooperatives. In the first year back to a traditional format an old adage about CYCLE proved itself true again: Nearly 100 strangers formed fast friendships with one another.
“I joined because I thought this would help with college, and as the event got closer I realized, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to meet so many people here,’ ” says Mia Hunter, sponsored by Three Rivers Electric. “I really loved all of it, and I know for sure I’m going to miss everyone I met.”