McLouth Students Attend Cooperative Youth Leadership Camp

Katie Kuglin (left) and Elizabeth Funk (right)

Elizabeth Funk and Katie Kuglin, students at McLouth High School, attended the 43rd annual Cooperative Leadership Camp in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, from July 12-18, joining students from across Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Wyoming.

Campers experienced indoor skydiving and a STEM educational lab at iFLY. When the group arrived at Glen Eden Resort, nestled in the Rocky Mountains, the campers organized their own cooperatives, starting daily membership meetings and selecting a general manager, board of directors and committees. The weeklong experience also gave participants an authentic camp feel with a hike to Fish Creek Falls, river rafting, a volleyball tournament, swimming, a dance and a talent show.

Several demonstrations and presentations enhanced students’ knowledge of the cooperative business model and operations at their electric cooperative. Campers competed to build a model transmission line out of craft supplies, toured Trapper Mine, Craig Power Plant and watched a high-voltage safety demonstration. 

Elizabeth Funk, McLouth High School
Camp changed my life. Every experience and person affected me, teaching me valuable life skills. Higher elevation gave me altitude sickness, and it taught me independence from my family even when my body was sick and all I wanted was to be home. I learned how to build new connections and be a leader among them. I could go on about how the trip affected me, but I think focusing on one aspect could better explain just how inspired I was. The highlight of this trip was getting the chance to hear from people who were passionate about their careers. 

Elizabeth flying high at iFly indoor skydiving experience. 

Since I’ve been in high school, I discovered I had an interest for STEM careers—careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Due to my father’s influence, I grew to love engineering, mostly because of my interest in math. On this trip, I met multiple engineers. The first was at a Tri-State power plant. He spoke to us about how a turbine operated to create electricity. At first, he was extremely quiet and seemed very nervous. The longer he talked about his career, and how the machinery worked, I saw his eyes light up and his voice got louder. He was so passionate about what he did for a living; I knew I was similar to him and wanted to do what he did. Next, I met a few engineers at Trapper Mines. I met an engineer whose job was exclusively to “blow up stuff.” I even met some environmental engineers at the strip mine, which surprised me greatly. Because of them, I began to realize how many options there were for engineers. 

I am sincerely thankful to the board of directors and members of FreeState. I made so many lifelong memories that I will never forget. I grew as a leader and individual. Each and every camper was forced to go outside of our comfort zones, and it was inspiring to see everyone flourish. I will never forget the connections I made or skills I learned from CYLC. 

Katie Kuglin, McLouth High School
Participating in camp was one of the greatest opportunities I have ever had. I’ve been to a lot of leadership-focused camps before CYLC, and it is by far the most informative, inspiring, well-organized and fun camp I’ve ever had the privilege to be a part of. The whole camp was filled to the brim with interactive and fun activities, which makes it hard to pick out one favorite.

Katie, an avid conservationist, poses with Hawkquest's eagle.

If I had to choose though, I’d say I most enjoyed visiting Trapper Mine and Craig Power Plant. It was very cool to see how coal is stripped from the surface and transported to the power plant. I am passionate about conservation, and learning about the reclamation process for land that is mined and knowing there are many regulations in place to protect the environment was a great thing to learn and experience first-hand. 

The barbecue and volleyball tournament was also a ton of fun. It was right at the beginning of the trip when we were still getting to know the people in our groups, and it was a fantastic opportunity to bond with our teammates and other campers while having a good time.

Another one of my favorite experiences was white water rafting. The water was freezing! It was fun to have splash wars. I think we ended up getting splashed a lot more than we splashed others!

I also had the honor of being a member of the youth cooperative board we have for the camp. It was a new experience to make decisions and get to know the other board members throughout the week. Being a board member was a great experience and taught me a lot about how cooperatives function. I thought it was interesting that we got to select our general manager. We took resumes and reviewed them, and even interviewed all the candidates. I’ve been in interviews before, but I’ve never been the one asking the questions. It was a new perspective and I was excited to experience that activity.

I want to thank all the FreeState members, board and staff for their support of not only the camp in Colorado, but sending kids like me. I hope someone reads this summary and takes the time to find out more information because CYLC just can’t be beat. 

I know that the experiences I had and leadership skills I learned will stick with me for the rest of my life. I’m so thankful that I was able to go to camp. It really was the trip of a lifetime! 

Do you know a current junior who would be interested in an opportunity like this? Learn more at www.freestate.coop/youth. Applications are now being accepted for the 2020 trips to D.C. and Steamboat Springs. Apply today!