Wabash News

March 25, 2024

Leaders of Tomorrow Represent Their CO-OP on Youth Day

SPRINGFIELD – For more than 60 years, the electric and telephone cooperatives of Illinois have given tomorrow’s leaders the opportunity to learn from today’s public officials. On March 20, more than 200 students from across rural Illinois represented 25 CO-OPS during Youth Day, including eight from Wabash Communications CO-OP.

“Youth Day gives students across the state an up-close look at democracy in action as they meet their elected representatives in Springfield,” said Baylee Flowers, legal and government relations coordinator at the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives. “State senators and representatives have the opportunity to inspire and encourage the leaders of tomorrow during this annual event.”

In addition to meeting elected officials, the students also learned more about their electric or telephone cooperative’s role in their own communities and had the opportunity to tour the Illinois State Capitol and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

State Senator Terri Bryant (R-58) met with the students representing Wabash Communications CO-OP. These students included Emma Beckman, Addison Cutright, Lawnee Erwin, Karlie Guinn, Adelynn Larch, Adam Pietz, Jacob Thomason and Gavin Williams.

During lunch, Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Natalie Phelps Finnie addressed the students. She discussed her background as a healthcare provider and how she got into politics. She encouraged them to follow their passions, live confidently and work hard. “You’re embarking upon adulthood,” Phelps Finnie said to the students. “You can do anything you want to do. I just ask that you come to adulthood with the right posture and attitude. … Don’t come with a sense of entitlement that everything is owed to you. Work for it. Earn it.”

Participants also met with Paris Van Dyke, the 2023-24 Illinois Youth Leadership Council representative, who was sponsored by Wabash Communications CO-OP during last year’s Youth Day. She spoke about her experiences over the past year and challenged attendees to say, “Yes.”

“What I want to say to you today is something that I decided to do during this day last year … take every opportunity,” Van Dyke said. “You will learn so much if you just choose to say, ‘Yes.’”

At the end of the day, attendees were interviewed for the chance to participate in Youth Tour, an annual trip to Washington, D.C., sponsored by Illinois electric and telephone cooperatives. This year’s trip will be held June 14-21. Emma Beckman and Adam Pietz will represent Wabash Communications CO-OP on the weeklong trip and meet their elected officials, see historic sites, learn firsthand how cooperatives work and gain valuable leadership skills.

Wabash Communications CO-OP serves more than 15,000 members/customers in more than 14 counties within South Central Illinois.









Emma Beckman                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Adam Pietz