On July 26, early Monday morning, two buses set off from eastern South Dakota. Over the course of the day they picked up a total of 26 youth, all headed to the same destination – the first ever Connect Con youth leadership experience on the BHSU campus in Spearfish, S.D.
From the get-go, these youth were ready to dive in and make the most of the experience. They listened attentively to speakers on Tuesday, learning about the value of effective communication in leadership, the abundant career opportunities in the energy sector and what makes an electric cooperative stand out and above from the average utility provider. Our participants got to take a brief tour of BHSU, getting to go up on the rooftop of a building to see some of the campus’ solar panels up close before having the chance to check out the university’s electric vehicle and charging station. They also had the chance to work collaboratively in hands-on group activities through the morning and early afternoon, putting their creativity to good use. After a long day of learning, it was off to dinner and the Spearfish Recreational Center! With all the laughter and chatter throughout the evening, it was clear to see that our participants were forming positive new connections.
On our second day, we got to visit Butte Electric Cooperative for a safety demonstration. You could say that our attendees were a little, well, shocked to see just how dangerous electricity can be – but they learned some good safety tips that should help keep them safe moving forward! The big highlight for our attendees was definitely getting to take turns going up in a bucket truck, though. It may have been a scorcher of a day, but these youth weren’t about to let the heat stop them from making the most of the experience. After getting strapped in, they ascended well over 50 feet into the air to take in a stunning 360 degree view of Spearfish. From there, we returned to the BHSU campus for lunch. Our participants got to meet with Rep. Dusty Johnson via Zoom, and then hear in-person from former representative Dr. Scyller Borglum on her unique career journey. The conversations were informative and insightful, and it was great to see our attendees eagerly engage with state leaders.
From there, it was time to get out and about! We stopped by the Spearfish Hydro Plant for a brief tour and learned about the role of hydropower in South Dakota, and then visited the local fish hatchery for some fish feeding fun. From there, it was back to the campus for dinner before heading out again to cool down at the Spearfish Aquatics Center! Our participants floated down the lazy river, flew down water slides and splashed around for a couple hours before heading back to our dorm for one last night of conversation and laughter. The days had flown by – just like that, it was time to leave. As our participants boarded their buses to head home, it was clear that Connect Con 2021: A Youth Leadership Experience had done exactly what the name implies. Meaningful friendships were formed. Leadership skills were shared and developed. It was truly an experience like no other; we were lucky to have so many incredible young leaders attend this event.
SDREA is grateful to our participating cooperatives and attendees for making our first ever Connect Con 2021 such a resounding success. We look forward to supporting and planning youth engagement opportunities in 2022!