Reaching for Tomorrow

Indiana's electric cooperatives programs focus on our future

Posted on Jun 21 2017 in For Youth, General

Touchstone Energy Camper Taryn Schmitt awaits her ride on the zipline at Camp Tecumseh with a look of eagerness and maybe a little apprehension. Taryn was sponsored at camp by Dubois REC.
Photo by Marty Jones

“I touch the future. I teach.” is a quote attributed to Christa McAuliffe, the star-crossed classroom teacher who was to be the first teacher in space aboard the ill-fated Space Shuttle Challenger.

In their own ways, Indiana’s electric cooperatives have been touching the future, too, … for decades. Fulfilling the cooperative commitment to community and education, they have taught our younger consumers — who will someday be our members, our directors and our civic leaders — about our country and the role of co-ops and electricity.

In June, two of our most vital youth programs took place — involving 243 students. Here’s a look back … at the faces of our future.

Putting the ‘Amp’ into Camp

For 15 years, Indiana’s Touchstone Energy Camp has mixed typical summer camp fare with little electrical twists: wall climbing and utility pole climbing; ziplines and zapping power lines.

This year’s camp, held June 7-10 at YMCA Camp Tecumseh in Brookston, had a record number of participants — 136. Students entering seventh grade this fall were eligible to attend and were selected by their local cooperative to participate.

The students’ agenda combined traditional outdoor camp activities with environmental education, electrical safety practices and cooperative business education.

Cece Baist makes her way up a climbing wall during Touchstone Energy Camp last month. The soon-to-be seventh grader was sponsored by Kosciusko REMC.

Darrell Marks, energy advisor at Kankakee Valley REMC, reveals various “colors of light” during a presentation on “Lighting Efficiency.” He shared with campers info about the energy efficiencies and flexibility of LED lighting, which produces much more light using fewer watts, compared to CFL and incandescent bulbs.

Emmeline Seest hangs on tight for her ride across the camp lake on the zipline.

Climbing walls weren’t the only wood scaled during camp. Chloe Quillen climbs the rungs of a utility pole set up for camp to give the campers a little idea of what life as a lineworker is like. Co-op linemen on hand demonstrated how they climb poles using spikes attached to their legs and belts wrapped around the pole. Bucket truck rides into the tree tops were also a part of the Touchstone Energy Camp experience.

The 2017 Touchstone Energy Camp had a record number 136 participants. The campers will be in seventh grade this coming school year. The camp is chaperoned by staff members and employees of Indiana’s electric cooperatives.

Finding the Cost of Freedom

A record number of incoming high school seniors, 107 to be exact, participated in this year’s Indiana Youth Tour to Washington, D.C., June 8-15.

The tour provides young Hoosiers the opportunity to visit the nation’s capital, learn about government, experience American history and gain a better understanding about their electric cooperative.

The group represented 36 Indiana electric co-ops. More than 1,800 students from 46 states traveled to Washington for the week-long experience.

Hoosiers visited the Flight 93 memorial, the Gettysburg Battlefield, Arlington National Cemetery and the museums, monuments and memorials in and around D.C. The group also spent a day on Capitol Hill, where they met with members of Indiana’s congressional delegation.

A meadow of wildflowers at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, offers Youth Tour participants Attie Schuler, left, and Kayla Tryon, the opportunity for quiet reflection on the hallow ground around them. On 9/11, the hijacked United Airlines flight crashed there after passengers stormed the cockpit for control of the plane. The site is the first official stop en route to Washington.

The 2017 Indiana Electric Cooperative Youth Tour to Washington, D.C., assembles for a group photo at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial on the Tidal Basin in Washington. This year’s group of 107 high school seniors is the largest that Indiana’s electric cooperatives have ever sent in its 58 years of sending students on the annual week-long excursion. The memorial is a must-see since FDR was the president who helped get electric cooperatives started in the 1930s.

Shooting for Higher Goals

Electric Cooperatives to partner
with Indianapolis Children’s Museum

The Youth Power and Hope Awards — our annual recognition of community service-minded middle school students — has been expanded this year.

Students no longer have to reside on electric cooperative lines to participate in the program. However, they must live in Indiana.

This year, we are teaming up with the world-renowned Indianapolis Children’s Museum and its Power of Children awards program to offer an exclusive opportunity for this year’s award winners. YPH winners will be attending the Power of Children Symposium at the Children’s Museum during which they will learn how to continue to impact the world through their community service projects. Tamika Catchings, former Indiana Fever/WNBA standout and Olympic gold medalist, will be the keynote speaker during the symposium, to be held Nov. 11 at the museum.

YPH winners will be formally recognized at the Indiana Electric Cooperatives annual meeting, Dec. 5, in downtown Indianapolis. They will also be featured in Electric Consumer.

Applications will be available soon.

Other Notable Youth Programs


Each year since 1999, Electric Consumer, supported by participating electric cooperatives around the state, has published a calendar illustrated with student art. The art is selected the previous spring from a contest open to all Indiana students, grades K-12. The calendar for 2018 is in production and will be available later this year.
On July 27, the 13 first place and nine honorable mention-winning artists for the 2018 calendar will be honored at a reception at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis, in conjunction with the opening of the Hoosier Salon exhibition. Their works will be exhibited at the museum for a week.


High school students, affiliated with an Indiana electric cooperative, can apply to spend a day as a page at the Indiana State Legislature. In 2017, Indiana Electric Cooperatives’ Page Day included opportunities with both the Indiana House of Representatives and the Indiana Senate. Each experience gave students a chance to see the Indiana State Legislature in action while taking a tour of the governor’s office and the Statehouse.