by | Aug 21, 2023

Co-ops train Show-Me State’s best and brightest

Thinking about her summer vacation, Jazmine LePage didn’t see herself spending part of it in Jefferson City. But when her counselor at Thomas W. Kelly High School in Benton told Jazmine about the Cooperative Youth Conference and Leadership Experience (CYCLE), she thought it just might be the chance she needed to broaden her horizons.

“She said, ‘You should do this, because I think you can meet new people and learn a lot about different things,’” recalls Jazmine, who was sponsored by SEMO Electric Cooperative. As it turned out, meeting new people became Jazmine’s favorite part about the experience. “You learn a lot of different points of view, what people like to do and what backgrounds they come from. You do so many different things and meet so many new people, you never realize you’re out of your comfort zone.”

That’s one of the many takeaways Missouri’s electric cooperatives hope students will have at the end of the program, and it’s why for 20 years co-ops have sponsored students to take part in CYCLE. For three days these delegates hear from motivational speakers, participate in team-building activities, learn about electric cooperatives, make dozens of new friends and unlock their potential as tomorrow’s leaders.

“Students who apply to be part of a program such as CYCLE are motivated and open-minded, not just about their own future but about working with others and learning from the experience,” says Chris Massman, who coordinates the CYCLE program for the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives (AMEC). “Many of them are already active in their communities, and we hope they return home from Jefferson City inspired to do more and with a great support system of new friends.”

This year, CYCLE delegates were comprised of 93 students sponsored by 37 of the state’s electric cooperatives, AMEC and the Missouri Institute of Cooperatives. For some delegates such as Alison Williston of Warsaw, who was sponsored by Southwest Electric Cooperative, the program marked their first trip to the state capital.

“I like to do new things and get new experiences to figure out what I want to do with my future, so this was an amazing opportunity to be here,” Alison says. “You only get a few opportunities in your life to do things like this.”

During CYCLE, delegates gain firsthand experience of the cooperative business model, energy and technology. Delegates learn about Missouri’s three-tier electric co-op system and its power generation mix, the gear used by lineworkers in the field and the different jobs available at their local electric cooperatives. They also received a live-line electrical safety demonstration courtesy of Central Electric Power Cooperative and an up-close look at electric vehicles used by Callaway and Cuivre River electric cooperatives. This in-depth experience is geared toward educating delegates who may one day become electric cooperative member-owners and showing them where their interests can take them in a career at a co-op.

“I have a passion for leading people so I’m always looking for leadership conferences to help me refine my skills and help other people with leadership skills. CYCLE was a great way to do that,” says Jude Wyatt, an El Dorado Springs High School student sponsored by Sac Osage Electric Cooperative. In a trip packed with field trips and activities, Jude, like many of his fellow delegates, most enjoyed meeting his peers from other parts of the state. “It reinforced the notion I’ve found true time and time again — strangers are friends you just need to go meet.”

Those newly minted friendships go a long way toward tackling the team-oriented activities and challenges that are hallmarks of the CYCLE experience. Delegates work in groups to build their own electric cooperative, complete the Missouri State Capitol scavenger hunt and draft potential bills. After voting on the topic, delegates get a taste of the legislative process in action when they take sides to debate the chosen bill on the floor of the Missouri House of Representatives.

Other highlights of the experience include touring the Missouri State Penitentiary and hearing a presentation by Rachel’s Challenge, which encourages students to make a positive impact on the world and those around them. It’s not the typical summer vacation for most high school students, but CYCLE delegates lack no enthusiasm when making new friends or their critical points on the House floor.

“That says a lot about the quality of the students we have in Missouri,” Chris says. “Young people who are willing to step out of their comfort zones to meet new people, see new places and try new things together are the kind of future leaders we want in our cooperatives and communities.”

For seven years, the opportunity of attending CYCLE was on delegate Dionna Lynch’s mind. When she applied for a spot offered by Intercounty Electric Cooperative, she jumped at the chance to find out what the experience was all about.

“My brother attended in 2016, had an amazing experience and talked about it all the time,” she says. “Even if it doesn’t seem like something you’ll enjoy or makes you kind of nervous, that’s a good thing,” Dionna says. “I know it’s cliche, but you miss all the opportunities you don’t take, so take them. What are you going to lose from it?”

“Take this opportunity,” Alison adds. “When will you get another one?”

For more information on CYCLE and other cooperative youth programs, visit

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