Youth Day 2024

For more than 60 years, the electric and telephone cooperatives of Illinois have given tomorrow’s leaders the opportunity to learn from today’s public officials. On March 20, more than 200 students from across  rural Illinois represented 25 co-ops during Youth Day, including nine from Wayne-White Counties Electric Cooperative.

“Youth Day gives students across Illinois an up-close look at democracy in action as they meet their elected representatives in Springfield,” said Baylee Flowers, legal and government relations coordinator at the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives. “State senators and representatives have the opportunity to inspire and encourage leaders of Students Enjoy Youth Day 2024 tomorrow during this annual event.”

In addition to meeting elected officials, the students also learned more about their electric cooperative’s role in their own communities and had the opportunity to tour the Illinois State Capitol and the Lincoln Home
National Historic Site.

State Senator Terri Bryant (R-58) met with the students representing Wayne-White Counties Electric Cooperative. These students included Sarah Ruhl and Caleb Williams-Caldwell from Fairfield Community High
School, Zoe Wiggins, Alayna White, and Kane Borah from Wayne City High School, Journee Williams and Lathan Erwin from Norris City-Omaha-Enfield High School, Macy Tannahill from Cisne High School, and
Natalie Reynolds from Hamilton County Senior High School.

During lunch, Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Natalie Phelps Finnie addressed the students. She discussed her background as a healthcare provider and how she got into politics. She encouraged them to follow their passions, live confidently and work hard.

“You’re embarking upon adulthood,” Phelps Finnie said to the students. “You can do anything you want to do. I just ask that you come to adulthood with the right posture and attitude. Don’t come with a sense of
entitlement that everything is owed to you. Work for it. Earn it.”

Participants also met Paris Van Dyke, the 2023-24 Illinois Youth Leadership Council representative, who was sponsored by Wabash Communications during last year’s Youth Day. She spoke about her experiences
over the past year and challenged attendees to say, “Yes.”

“What I want to say to you today is something that I decided to do during this day last year … take every opportunity,” Van Dyke said. “You will learn so much if you just choose to say, ‘Yes.’”

In addition to Youth Day, Lathan Erwin & Sarah Ruhl were selected to participate in Youth Tour, an annual trip to Washington, D.C., sponsored by Illinois electric and telephone cooperatives. This year’s trip will
be held June 14-21. They will represent Wayne-White Counties Electric on the weeklong trip and meet their elected officials, see historic sites, learn firsthand how cooperatives work and gain valuable leadership