FORTY-SIX HIGH school students representing 15 electric cooperatives around South Carolina spent three days in the Columbia area July 26-28 on the first statewide Cooperative Youth Summit, which included a much longer visit with the governor than had been planned.
Palmetto Electric sponsored Sophia Topping of Hilton Head High School, daughter of Mati Topping, and Michaela Williams of Ridgeland-Hardeeville High School, daughter of Rhonda Edwards. Mostly rising seniors, Youth Summit attendees got an introduction to co-ops and the cooperative business model.
They visited the Statehouse, where government relations staff from the state association of electric cooperatives explained co-ops’ lobbying efforts on behalf of their members. They met a judge and a legislator, toured the Richland County C&D Landfill’s gas-to-energy facility, went to Riverbanks Zoo, and enjoyed a catered dinner at the historic Robert Mills House.
Seven chaperones from co-ops and affiliated organizations around the state accompanied the students, who began their visits with elected officials with Richland County Circuit Court Judge Robert Hood. State Rep. James Smith (Richland-Dist. 2) also discussed his service in the state House of Representatives.
The day’s highlight came when what was scheduled to be a quick chat with Gov. Henry McMaster turned into an impromptu personal visit with all 46 students. McMaster gave the students a tour of his personal office and conference room and spent more than 45 minutes taking pictures and talking with each of the attendees.
The students operated their own Soda Pop Co-op during the trip. At the end, they were surprised to learn that, by doing business the cooperative way, they had earned $3 per person as their capital credit refund.