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Santee Electric Cooperative selected high school students earlier this year for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The students were to travel to Washington, D.C., in June and/or Columbia in July as part of experiences that connect students from across the state with government leaders.

The COVID-19 outbreak forced the cancellation of both in-person events. However, the students will still have the opportunity to connect with new friends and learn this summer. The state’s electric cooperatives will hold the Virtual Youth Experience June 19-26 through an Internet-based video conferencing system. 

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Participating in the virtual experience will be: Kiaundra Maple of Greeleyville; Taemaisha Collins of Georgetown; Gracyn Reeves of Andrews; and Pharrell Gamble of Salters.

During the experience, the students will learn about cooperatives and how they are handling the COVID-19 crisis, hear from influential speakers including Governor Henry McMaster, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn and more. The students also will have the opportunity to earn a $5,000 college scholarship by working in teams to create a podcast detailing how the COVID-19 crisis has impacted their lives. 

“During these challenging times, we have to be innovative to keep supporting our communities and members,” said Rob Ardis of Santee Electric Cooperative. “We were disappointed these students couldn’t take the trips as originally planned. but we’re glad this experience is available to them. We think it will still be one they will always remember.”

A total of 79 students—all rising high school juniors or seniors—will take part in the Virtual Youth Experience. These students represent 19 electric cooperatives across South Carolina.