Youth Tour 2023
Youth Tour Delegates and Public Affairs Specialist Shelley Paik at Līhuʻe airport awaiting departure.

Youth Tour Delegates and Public Affairs Specialist Shelley Paik at Līhuʻe airport awaiting departure.

Sarah Morioka, Kapaʻa High
Bailey Ponce, Island School
Joveline Alvarez, Waimea High
Leilani Kass, Hawaiʻi Technology Academy

Following a three-year break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, KIUC selected four juniors to participate in 2023 Youth Tour: Joveline Alvarez of Waimea High, Leilani Kass of Hawaiʻi Technology Academy, Sarah Morioka of Kapaʻa High and Bailey Ponce of Island School. Through the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s Youth Tour program, students from across the United States travel with their co-ops to meet in Washington, D.C., to learn about history, government and how electric cooperatives work. KIUC partners with Kansas Electric Cooperatives, and we travel together to form the Kansas-Hawaiʻi delegation. Our delegates were eager to share their experiences.  

Trip of a Lifetime
By Sarah Morioka

Being able to experience Youth Tour 2023 this past June was one of the most exciting and unimaginable things I have ever done. Through this trip of a lifetime, I was able to connect with so many new people, learn more about co-ops and how they serve our community, as well as get a closer look at the way our government functions. Our Kansas-Hawaiʻi group, although strangers at first, quickly became friends as we explored the treats our nation’s capital has to offer. And although nearly impossible, if I had to choose I would say my favorite part of Youth Tour would be the way we saw history unfold before our eyes.  

The best way I can describe it is that it felt like I walked straight into a history book. From the marbled floors to the granite pillars up to the intricate painted ceilings, history was strung everywhere throughout the city. I think one of the most surreal moments for me was walking through the National Archives Museum and seeing the historical documents written to form our country. Throughout my years of sitting in many U.S. history classes, I have learned a great deal about what our country stands for and how it came to be; however, actually seeing these documents, yellowed and aged as written by our founding fathers, it felt so real, like I was transported back to 18th century America.  

In addition to viewing the founding pieces of our country, Youth Tour also provided us the opportunity to view the parts that support us in the present. We were lucky enough to visit Capitol Hill. Guided by the interns in Sen. Brian Schatz’s office, we saw the insides of our Capitol and the behind-the-scenes work that is done to maintain it. We were also given the opportunity to meet with and ask questions of Congresswoman Jill Tokuda, an experience which showed us just how important it is to use our voices.  

Being able to be a part of Youth Tour is truly something that comes only once in a lifetime, and I am beyond grateful to KIUC and NRECA to have been presented with this amazing opportunity. I think this trip will remain one of my fondest memories, and I can’t help but smile every time I think about the adventure we experienced this past June. 

Living in the Moment 
By Bailey Ponce 

Ever since I went on KIUC’s electric co-op Youth Tour, I have taken away many life lessons. I first learned how to make new friends and integrate myself with people from a different culture than Kauaʻi’s community. I also broadened my knowledge about the history of Kansas and Washington, D.C., as we got to visit numerous memorials and monuments.  

My favorite monument was the Washington Monument, as I could see Washington, D.C., from four different perspectives and appreciate the well-crafted architecture of the monument. The tour was very educational, as I got to watch a baseball game, ride a huge boat on the Potomac River and watch a magic show. My favorite experience was the boat ride on the Potomac River, as I got to meet other people on Youth Tour from different states, eat dinner with them and dance with them. However, all of these activities taught me the importance of living in the moment and never wasting a day doing nothing.  

Youth Tour also taught me the importance of having good company and making friends with people who will always have your back no matter what. At first, I didn’t think I would miss the Youth Tour that much, but now I wish to see my friends from Kansas and Hawaiʻi and go on another trip with them.  

Celebrating Diversity and Unity 
By Joveline Alvarez

Participating in the 2023 Youth Tour as part of the Kansas-Hawaiʻi group was an unforgettable and enriching experience. The collaboration between Kauaʻi Island Utility Cooperative and Kansas Electric Cooperatives created a unique opportunity to learn from one another and foster lasting friendships across states. As we joined forces, I found immense joy in the diversity of perspectives and cultural exchange that took place during our journey, and it was incredible to witness how electricity cooperatives can bring people together for a common purpose. 

During our time in Arlington, Virginia, we had the privilege of watching the Marine Corps Sunset Parade at the Iwo Jima Memorial. The Sunset Parade was an unforgettable performance, featuring the music of "The Commandant's Own," the United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps and precision drill by the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon. As a cadet at Waimea High’s Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps program, I found this experience particularly meaningful. I could appreciate the countless hours of practice and dedication required to achieve such an impressive level of performance. The ceremony also served as a reminder of the sacrifices made by our military personnel and their families to protect our freedoms and uphold our values. 

Throughout the trip, we had the opportunity to explore numerous historical landmarks, museums and government institutions; each offering unique insights into the foundation and workings of our nation. This trip was an enriching journey filled with memorable moments. The friendships formed with the Kansas-Hawaiʻi group and the overall educational experience deepened my understanding of our government and the impact of rural electric cooperatives in our communities. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of this inspiring and enlightening trip. 

Expanding Horizons 
By Leilani Kass 

Traveling to Washington, D.C., has been an amazing transformative experience, but what really makes Youth Tour special is sharing that adventure with a group of strangers who quickly became my friends.  

On day one, I didn't know what to expect. In fact, I rarely ever knew what to expect as our trip took us across the United States and all around Washington, D.C. At times there was a bit of a culture shock. Kauaʻi, Kansas and D.C. are all very different, but I enjoyed every second of the experiences, especially the ones that pushed me out of my comfort zone. I think they have helped me grow as a person; however, I still am completely unable to line dance despite the efforts of the Kansas girls to teach me. 

A part of Youth Tour that I loved was getting the opportunity to meet one of our state representatives, Congresswoman Jill Tokuda, and being able to talk to her. Being young in today's political landscape often feels like being forced to stand on the sidelines of a game that we want to join but can't. It was empowering that Youth Tour offered us the opportunity to get in touch with the people representing us in D.C. We were able to ask pertinent questions and communicate concerns. 

Outside of our Kauaʻi and Kansas group, I met other young people from all across the United States. At the beginning of our trip, we got enamel pins and were told that pin trading was a big deal during the Youth Tour, and oh boy, was it a big deal! People were fixated on collecting a pin from every state and got incredibly excited about rare pins. There was one pin known as the “Texas waffle” (it was made to look like a waffle in the shape of Texas). You would think that pin was made of gold and diamond not metal and paint! But the pins were more than collectable souvenirs, they were a way to meet everyone, to seek out every group. Pin trading was a fun way to talk to others and make new connections, and now I have 40 pins to remind me of people I met, from California to Maine! 

For more photos and videos of the Youth Tour delegates, follow KIUC on social media @kauaicoop.