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Tonya Jones and Yolanda Robinson have been selected as two of 15 chaperones from across Georgia to oversee and accompany high school student delegates on this summer’s Washington Youth Tour, a weeklong leadership program sponsored by Georgia’s electric membership corporations (EMCs), including Sumter EMC.  

For more than 50 years, EMCs have sent promising students on the tour, the oldest youth leadership program in the state. During an all-expense paid week, the chaperones will guide the students in learning about U.S. history, government, public service, the principles of the cooperative business model, and the significant role EMCs play in Georgia and nationwide. 

The 2023 Washington Youth Tour is set for June 15-22, with 105 youth delegates scheduled to attend. The fast-paced trip focuses on leadership training in the nation’s capital and brings together more than 1,800 students from 44 states for the event.  

Tonya Jones joined Sumter EMC in June of 2022 as the Community Relations Specialist, serving as the local Washington Youth Tour coordinator. Tonya is no stranger to the Washington Youth Tour, as this will be her fifth time serving as a chaperone. Tonya has a passion for cooperatives and youth development. 

Yolanda Robinson is the Public Relations Coordinator for the Lee County School System. In 2007, she became a certified speaker for assembly programs within K-12 schools and colleges. She is currently a Youth Leader within her church and desires to be a chaperone to “facilitate conversations about what they are being exposed to and help students embrace the new world they are discovering.”  

Veteran chaperones say that the trip allows them to watch students mature during the week, visit cherished landmarks, and come away with a deeper appreciation of our nation and the generations who have come before them.  

“These chaperones play an important role in helping some talented young people transform how they see leaders – from being just characters in history textbooks and news reports to living, breathing individuals, and in doing so, the students begin to realize they also can become leaders in their communities and maybe even on a larger stage,” says Andrea Walker Vice President, Marketing & Administration at Sumter EMC. “We are pleased that Tonya and Yolanda will be the first chaperones Sumter EMC has sponsored and are accompanying this year’s delegates.”  

The students and chaperones gather in Atlanta to kick off the tour, spending time getting to know each other before departing for Washington, D.C.    

In D.C., destinations include the Smithsonian Museums, Holocaust Museum, Union Station, Mount Vernon, Supreme Court, U.S. Capitol, National Archives, Washington Monument, and the FDR, MLK, Jefferson, World War II, Lincoln, Korean War, and Vietnam Veterans monuments and memorials.   

The youth participate in a moving wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, view the United States Marine Corps Sunset Parade at the Iwo Jima Memorial, and meet with members of Georgia’s U.S. representatives and senators. 

The Washington Youth Tour was inspired by former president Lyndon Johnson who in 1957 encouraged electric cooperatives “to send youngsters to the nation’s capital where they can actually see what the flag stands for and represents.” Since 1965, the Washington Youth Tour has given 3,000 students in Georgia and more than 50,000 students nationwide the opportunity to participate in this memorable experience.