GOVERNMENT-IN-ACTION YOUTH TOUR: Student leaders heading to D.C.


Congratulations to Whitney Whitsel, left, a senior at Giddings High School, and Jude Rios, right, a senior at KIPP Austin Collegiate high school, who have been selected to represent Bluebonnet during the Government-in-Action Youth Tour. The annual tour includes a trip to Washington, D.C., and each recipient receives a $500 scholarship. Jenna Kieschnick, center, a Giddings High School senior, is the alternate.

By Lisa Ogle 
A budding political junkie who is his high school’s drum major and a Texas 4-H Livestock Ambassador who plans to be a veterinarian will head to Washington, D.C., this summer as recipients of Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative’s 2016 Government-in-Action Youth Tour awards. 
Jude Rios, a senior at KIPP Austin Collegiate high school in Austin, and Whitney Whitsel, a senior at Giddings High School, will represent Bluebonnet on the youth tour that has been an annual event for more than 50 years. Jenna Kieschnick, a senior at Giddings High School, is the alternate and will join the tour if one of the winners is unable to attend. 
The Government-in-Action Youth Tour also includes a $500 scholarship for each winner and tours of the Texas Capitol and the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin. The tour dates are June 8-17. 
The two recipients and alternate were among seven finalists who gave oral presentations and were interviewed by community leaders at Bluebonnet’s Headquarters in February. Recipients were selected based on oral presentations, personal interviews, letters of recommendation and essays about government, leadership, politics and the environment. 
Rios, 17, of Cedar Creek picked up the political bug from his college-level history class taught by Benjamin Breault. He has applied to several colleges and wants to major in political science. He plays the baritone in addition to being drum major. He is president of his school’s National Honor Society and has participated in the Explore Austin program, a six-year leadership training program. 
During his oral presentation, Rios discussed what he views as the greatest threat to the environment. “Some politicians deny that climate change exists,” he said. “We need to have stronger regulations. The future depends on our responsible decisions.” 
Whitsel, 17, of Ledbetter, raises lambs and goats for shows and has held clinics to provide tips on the care of show animals. She plans to major in animal science at Texas A&M University in the fall. After completing veterinary school, she hopes to return to small-town life and treat large and small animals. 
Her mother, Mary Ellen Whitsel, works in Bluebonnet’s information technology department. Her grandfather, Mike Simmang, Bluebonnet’s former general counsel, participated in Bluebonnet’s first youth tour in 1958. 
Whitney Whitsel believes compromise is the key to uniting those who do not share the same political views. 
“In human nature, we have difficulty setting aside our personal belief for the betterment of our world,” she said during her oral presentation in February. “However, in order for the world to be unified, we have to learn to work together. Our nation’s Congress should be our leaders in accomplishing this mindset.” 
Kieschnick, 18, of Lincoln, is a leader in the FFA and Fellowship of Christian Athletes, among other organizations. She’s involved in several community service activities such as Relay for Life, which raises money for cancer patients, and Lee County Blue Santa, which provides toys and food to area families in need. She raises pigs and chickens for shows and plans to attend Blinn College in Brenham, then transfer to Angelo State University in San Angelo for nursing school. 
Rios and Whitsel will join about 125 young people representing other Texas electric co-ops and 1,500 teens from around the country in the nation’s capital, where they will visit historical sites and the U.S. Capitol, meet members of Congress and attend events hosted by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, an organization that represents more than 900 electric cooperatives. 
The youth program has more than 50,000 alumni, including CEOs and U.S. senators. 
For more information, click HERE or visit Hover over Community, then click on Scholarships. Look for 2017 applications in the fall.

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