Trena Garcia and Ellie Van Zelfden were among 29 Kansas and Oklahoma student leaders to discover the “KEY” to leadership during the June 21-25 Kansas Electric Youth (KEY) Leadership Conference. Butler Electric Cooperative selected Garcia and Van Zelfden from a group of high school students to attend this exclusive virtual conference. During the application process, students were asked to provide a detailed record of their extracurricular activities and community involvement, complete a quiz focused on the electric cooperative industry and interview in front of a panel of co-op judges.
“Butler Electric is proud to support the KEY Leadership Conference and its mission to teach of leadership skills to our co-op’s youth,” Tim Lindahl, Butler Electric CEO said. “Our hope is that leadership opportunities like these will provide valuable experience for our local students and help them to further engage in our cooperative community.”
The weeklong conference focused on different pillars of leadership and included sessions about the cooperative business model and cooperative principles, advocacy focusing on the grassroots Co-ops Vote program and how students can be a force for political action, preparing for the transition between high school and higher education, and finally the importance of reputation management.
The speaker lineup featured a discussion with Sen. Jerry Moran, who visited openly with the students and answered their questions on topics ranging from foreign grain exports to death tax on inherited land, the pandemic, climate change, and support for military families.
Other speaker highlights included an inspiring message from the reality television program Survivor’s Holly Hoffman, and a presentation titled Wolves Can’t Fly from the Kansas City Chiefs mascot Dan Meers.
Students were able to network with their peers through small groups, each led by an electric cooperative employee who has shown substantial dedication to the continued development of our cooperative youth programs. These small group mentors included Angie Clevenger, Butler Electric Cooperative; Sarah Farlee, FreeState Electric Cooperative; Travis Griffin, Flint Hills Rural Electric Cooperative; Shelley Paik, Kauai Island Utility Cooperative; Leslie Kraich, Tri-County Electric Cooperative; and Alli Conine, Wheatland Electric Cooperative.
At the conclusion of the conference, students submitted a short video explaining what leadership means to them. Each student’s video was shared with their local cooperative and a highlight reel was presented at the KEC Summer Meeting on Aug. 2.
In addition to the conference, the students had the opportunity to apply for the Kansas Youth Spokesperson position. Maggie Brull, sponsored by Western Cooperative Electric, was named the 2021 Kansas Youth Spokesperson. Brull also spoke at the KEC Summer Meeting on Aug. 2.
“I thought it would be a great leadership opportunity to represent the students who were selected for the KEY Leadership Conference,” Brull said. “This conference has taught me that people come from a lot of different places in life, and co-ops serve everyone no matter what your place in life is. It is nice to know that you have this giant community of people who are there for you.”
All students who completed the virtual conference are eligible to apply for both the KEC Auxiliary Scholarship and the NRECA Glenn English Scholarship. Both scholarship programs are designed for Electric Cooperative Youth Tour alumni.
For more information about the virtual KEY Leadership Conference or other KEC youth programs, contact Angie Clevenger at 800-464-0060. KEC plans to return to the in-person Electric Cooperative Youth Tour and the Cooperative Youth Leadership Camp in 2022.