By Josh Crotzer
Riyah Bennett has no doubt that her experience on Washington Youth Tour will inspire her to write a poem. It’s just that she’s still processing all that she experienced.
“I do plan to write something,” says Bennett. “It gave me a lot of new perspectives on how we can make a difference and how things that have happened have shaped us.”
Bennett, a rising senior at Chesterfield High School, joined 58 other student delegates sponsored by South Carolina’s electric cooperatives on a six-day, all-expenses-paid trip to the nation’s capital. Lynches River Electric Cooperative sponsored four local students on the journey, Sandra Anguiano and Denorris Wilson of Central High, Janelle Hunter of Andrew Jackson High and Bennett. They saw the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives, the bullet that killed Abraham Lincoln at the National Museum of Health and Medicine and the changing of the guards at Arlington National Cemetery among many other historic and educational sites. When visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, all 59 students were provided names of soldiers from their hometowns to etch off the wall.
In addition to the museums, memorials and monuments, the students also spent a day at the U.S. Capitol Building where they toured the complex and visited congressional offices. Wilson, Anguiano and Bennett went to Rep. Russell Fry’s office and spoke with staff there. Hunter visited Rep. Ralph Norman’s office. Later in the day, they engaged in question-and-answer sessions with Rep. Norman and members of Sen. Lindsey Graham’s staff on the Capitol steps.
Throughout the trip, the students participated in the student-run Soda Pop Co-op, which sold snacks and beverages to the students. As member-consumers, the students each received $7 in capital credits, their share of the co-op’s end-of- trip margins. The exercise allowed the students to learn first- hand how the not-for-profit co-op business model works.