Ty Halsell from Crowell Middle School and Kara Elliott from Tipton Middle School attended the 2021 Virtual Energy Camp June 1-4 sponsored by Southwest Rural Electric. Halsell and Elliott were also awarded scholarships for winning the co-op’s annual eighth grade essay contest. They were among 38 eighth graders who were chosen by their region’s co-op to attend Energy Camp based on their leadership qualities.
Each morning and afternoon, campers met virtually for sessions that were packed with education, challenges, and leadership training. Guest speaker, Brandon Gosselin, shared his impactful life story, encouraged campers to view life’s hardships as challenges instead of trials, and he challenged them to give back to their communities. Campers learned all about the seven cooperative principles and different types of energy sources through educational videos and interactive group exercises. Each camper took a personality quiz and compared their individual results and career goals with the various job opportunities available at co-ops. Special guests—board members, CEOs, and employees from all co-op departments—shared their employment experiences at their respective co-ops. SWRE Trustee, Don Proctor, was among the guests and shared his decades of experience serving SWRE communities as a board member.
Virtually, campers toured the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperative’s (OAEC) electrical underground safety training field and got a glimpse of the “life of a lineworker.” Linemen across the state volunteered to explain and demonstrate their daily duties, safety guidelines and how electricity travels from power lines to homes. Virtually, campers also learned about personal protective equipment (PPE) and the training that lineworkers are required to complete. Jimmy Westover, journeyman lineman at SWRE, demonstrated PPE to campers at the SWRE office and campers raced to see who could put on the PPE equipment the fastest. Mike Wolfe, SWRE’s Operation Manager, served on a panel with linemen from the Oklahoma Energy Trails Foundation and shared his testimonial on volunteering to aid developing countries in receiving electricity for the first time. Congressman Frank Lucas also joined students live on Facebook and Instagram and talked about the role of electric cooperatives in Oklahoma.
On the last day of Energy Camp, students attended a luncheon and awards ceremony at the OAEC Conference Center in Oklahoma City. Stacy Howeth, Energy Camp director, welcomed campers and introduced the camp’s leadership team: manager, Tessa Inman; board of directors, Haylee Jantz, Joel Bolding, Carter Falling, Ian Heidelbaugh and Danielle Blankenship. Keynote speaker, Brandon Baumgarten taught campers about making positive impacts through their leadership by “leaning into someone’s life,” and he also led group activities aimed at strengthening the students’ communication skills. Campers received certificates and prizes were announced from the daily challenge submissions.
“Younger generations catch a lot of grief for being online or on their devices too much, but the 2021 campers were a treat to host for Virtual Energy Camp,” Howeth said. “With everything they have dealt with over the past year, they could have made excuses or had bad attitudes about missing out on the regular camp experience, but they didn’t. They enthusiastically participated in every activity, discussion and challenge we put before them.”
Special thanks go to the staff at OAEC for hosting Virtual Energy Camp and the awards luncheon, along with our special guests, Don Proctor, Mike Wolfe, Jimmy Westover; Kara McPherson, SWRE’s camp counselor; Rebecca Chambless, SWRE’s youth coordinator; and SWRE managers and board of directors for continuously supporting the youth in our communities.