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In Kentucky Living’s March Guest Opinion column, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson wrote about the importance of understanding how our country is run, saying: “Civic literacy and engagement are essential to the success of a democratic government.”

This summer, electric co-ops in Kentucky raised the level of civic literacy by sponsoring a weeklong trip to our nation’s capital.

Seventy-five high school students from 20 electric cooperatives spent several days in June learning about the history and meaning of this country’s freedoms.

That learning came in ways likely to last a lifetime: by seeing historic sites, touching and walking around in monuments to people and events, meeting political leaders, and forming friendships.

But one of the most impressive aspects of the event is that it’s coordinated with co-ops in 43 other states that send their own student delegations. The result brings an invasion of more than 1,400 students, spending several days crisscrossing the Washington, D.C., area in dozens of large buses.

Just looking at the Kentucky group schedule will make you tired. Stops included Thomas Jefferson’s home, a service at the church George Washington attended, Arlington National Cemetery, a Navy Band concert, and appointments with the state’s senators and representatives. That’s in addition to visiting the monuments and museums: World War II, Vietnam, Korean War, Marines, and the National Archives, Holocaust Museum, and the Smithsonian museums.

Somehow there was still time for a group meeting of students from all the states for a session of presentations on leadership, public policy, and motivational life lessons. And they had a chance to unwind with a dance cruise on the Potomac River.

All this takes place every year, since 1958 when Iowa and Illinois co-ops sent groups to Washington that summer. Over the next 48 years, some 40,000 students have increased their level of civic literacy with this impressive program.

You can find lots of other details about the Kentucky and the national Rural Electric Washington Youth Tour, including how to apply for the tour, at

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