For students who spent their school year transitioning from distance learning to the classroom, Virtual Youth Experience was an appropriate way to begin their summer.
In June, Savannah Wojtkowski of Dixie High School was among 74 high-achieving students that participated in a week-long, part web conference, part in-person event sponsored by South Carolina’s electric cooperatives.
The local teen selected by Little River Electric Cooperative had the opportunity to discuss issues of the day online with four members of South Carolina’s Congressional delegation— U.S. Representatives James Clyburn and Nancy Mace and U.S. Senators Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham.
“There are a lot of hurdles that we all face as Americans,” Scott told the students. “I think the best way to address these issues is to focus on education. A good education is the closest thing to magic in America that I’ve ever seen.”
The students also got screen time with Rev. Charles Jackson of Brookland Baptist Church and State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell.
“I thank God for both the principle and the practice of love,” Jackson shared. “We have to transcend these barriers that divide us, and we can do that through love.”
To conclude the week, the students gathered at Fairfield Electric Cooperative where they heard inspiring messages from South Carolina Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette and Chris Singleton—a former professional baseball player whose mother, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, was one of nine killed in 2015’s Emanuel AME Church shooting.
Evette passed along advice she’d received from her grandmother, a Polish immigrant. “If you ever get the opportunity to serve, you should,” said Evette. “Take your God-given talents and make the country an even better place.”
Singleton travels the country speaking to sports teams, churches, and corporate events about unity and overcoming adversity.
“People think forgiveness is letting the other person off the hook,” he shared. “It’s really letting yourself off the hook. It allows you to move forward. Forgiveness is freeing.”
The students also spent the week in teams learning how to create and produce audio podcasts that complete the sentence: “This is my country….”
A group of S.C. journalists will judge the podcasts and award $5,000 scholarships to each student in the winning group. The student podcasts are available online at anchor.fm/ecsc.
The Virtual Youth Experience began last year when the risks of COVID- 19 caused cooperative programs like the Rural Electric Youth Tour and the Cooperative Youth Summit to be canceled.