team of high school seniors demonstrates how cooperatives get
power to homes in the “build
a co-op” game, one of a number activities designed to teach
about cooperatives during the annual CYCLE conference in Jefferson
City. This year's program, sponsored by Missouri's electric co-ops,
brought 60 high school students to the state capital for three
day of learning and fun.
zooming all over the room. “Do you have blue eyes?” asks
one student to another. “No, but I’m from a family with
seven kids,” replies the other student. “Who drove the
farthest to get here?” says another attendee, just hoping someone
will hear and reply over the roar of the crowd.
to know you” trivia game is all part of the fun at
an innovative youth leadership conference sponsored by Missouri’s electric
CYCLE — or
the Cooperative Youth Conference and Leadership Experience as it’s
formally known — lasts only three days each July. For the
60 or so high school seniors who attend, it’s three days of learning
about electric cooperatives, Missouri government and leadership skills. Along
the way, they get to have fun and make new friends, too.
Each year, many
of Missouri’s electric cooperatives hold essay contests
to select seniors as delegates for an all-expense-paid trip to the annual
Rural Electric Youth Tour in Washington, D.C. Those co-ops send one or
more winners on the week-long trip. But not everyone who writes an
essay goes to D.C.
Barry Hart, executive vice president of the Association of Missouri
Electric Cooperatives, addresses the CYCLE delegates and recalls
the impact of cooperatives in his own life.
had a lot of good Youth Tour entrants who didn’t win
the big trip,” says Barry Hart, CEO of the Association of Missouri
Electric Cooperatives (AMEC) in Jefferson City. “But the co-ops
wanted to send the kids somewhere they could learn and have fun at the
same time. Our CYCLE program was born out of that need.”
only choose to send youth to the CYCLE program for the program’s
leadership training and co-op education it offers young co-op members.
in its fourth year, CYCLE has grown from 30 attendees to 60 this
year, with 30 cooperatives sending delegates. The youth program is
always held the last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of July in Jefferson
the initial trivia game on, students are energized and off and running
from daybreak until lights out, forging friendships they’ll take
home along with what they learn about cooperatives, leadership and
|Mike Marsch, director of Member Services at the Association of
Missouri Electric Cooperatives addresses the CYCLE delegation from
the dais of the Missouri House of Representatives chambers. The
delegates participated in a mock legislative session at the state
the conference is short, CYCLE is jam-packed with activity.
of the team-building exercises is the “Build a Cooperative” game,
where students are divided into teams and given a box of supplies
they can use to build a model of their own member-owned business.
Their objective is to explain the final project as if they
were teaching a first-grade class, showing how power gets from
a transmission source to the child’s
activities include a boisterous game of Missouri Jeopardy, a segment
when the teams perform a TV commercial based on something they’ve read
in that day’s newspaper and a session where the youth learn
about their personalities and character through a fun questionnaire.
highlight is a trip to the Missouri Supreme Court where the group
gets a special session with Judge Mary Rhodes Russell. She shares
what cases the Supreme Court hears and how they decide cases. The
judge asks the students how they might have ruled — and then
she explains the actual court decision and why they made that decision.
CYCLE delegates arrive at the Missouri State Supreme Court Building
for a tour.
course, what would a trip to Jefferson City be without a tour
beautiful Capitol? While there, the students get to sit
at the desks on the floor of the House of Representatives and
debate a bill they’ve written with
their CYCLE peers. Through this activity, the delegates
see how hard it is for a bill to actually go through the process
of becoming a law.
include a barbecue, a highly entertaining evening with a hypnotist
and motivational sessions with speakers such as four-time wheelchair
basketball Olympiad Mike Schlappi. Through humor and motivation,
Mike tells how a tragic shooting accident changed his life and discusses
the lifetime of lessons and victories he’s learned with the
Ryan Roark, an
attendee sponsored by Crawford Electric Cooperative, says CYCLE was
educational and inspiring.
were the best part,” says
Ryan. “I also learned
a lot more about politics and how difficult the
process of getting a bill into a law is. It’s much more difficult
than it seems.”Ryan did, however, have one comment to share
with CYCLE program planners.
Judge Mary Rhodes Russell invited the CYCLE attendees
into the court's chambers and discussed the court's role in Missouri.
thing I’d change
about CYCLE is that I wish it had been longer. I had a great
Mike Marsch is glad the experience is rewarding for attendees.
“We want CYCLE to be a fun, educational experience that helps bring about
the next generation of cooperative leaders,” he
Barry Hart echoes the sentiment.
“We want to be a leadership
development stepping stone for the youth,” he
says. “By us getting involved in helping
develop their leadership potential, we hope
these delegates go back to their communities,
continue to learn from local leaders, educators
and co-op staff so when they get into positions
of leadership later in life, they won’t
forget the cooperatives’ way of thinking.”
For more information about the CYCLE program,
log onto www.amec.org/youth.html.