Growing up in a small rural town in southern Louisiana, there wasn’t much to do other than Friday Nights under the Lights. When I look at where I am now, it wasn’t any play on the field that got me to where I am today, no it was the lights. I never would have thought that the lines that provided those lights with its power would be the reason why I’m writing this blog today. Let’s start from the beginning, in my junior year of high school, my Spanish teacher was offering extra credit to anyone that applied for this essay competition sponsored by our local electric cooperative. I didn’t even know what an electric cooperative was, but I definitely didn’t know Spanish, so I needed the extra credit. I sent off the essay without really understanding what the contest was even about, but at least I learned what a cooperative was, and I passed Spanish.
A few months later I got a call that I had received a week-long trip to Washington DC, sponsored by my local cooperative, Washington-St. Tammany Electric Cooperative. I thought it was a spam call, almost hanging up on Ms. Coylean, but thank God I didn’t. Later that summer, I got on an airplane for the first time as me and 20 other young Louisianans traveled to Washington DC to meet with our local representatives and learn more about the cooperative way. It was an eye-opening experience to say the least, truly a trip of a lifetime for a young wide-eyed kid from nowhere, Louisiana.
The Journey Doesn’t Stop There
While on the Youth Tour, I was honored to be elected by my peers to represent Louisiana on the Youth Leadership Council. Through the Youth Leadership Council, I was able to connect with peers from all around the country and dive deeper into how our own local electric cooperatives each apply the 7 cooperative principles differently. It was also an eye-opening experience to meet people from all around. It was the first time I had met someone from Alaska or Hawaii, really it was one of the first times I had connected with someone outside my two stop-light town.
As part of the Youth Leadership Council, we also traveled to the NRECA Annual Meeting and PowerXchange Conference to hear more about how the industry was changing and the future of electric cooperatives not only in our own country, but internationally. Being a “YLC’ster” made me fall in love with cooperatives and little did I know back then that my life would be changed forever.
The College Years
While attending Louisiana State University, I continued my love for the cooperatives by returning to the Youth Tour as a Staff Assistant. It was incredible to be able to not only meet, but to mentor the next generation of cooperative leaders. My time spent as a “blue shirt” only strengthen my love for cooperatives as I began my next chapter of my cooperative journey.
Internships are an amazing way to learn and understand an industry. I was fortunate enough to intern at a variety of different cooperatives in the summers of my college years. I first began interning at the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Financial Corporation, better known as CFC. Getting to spend the summer in Dulles, Virginia was one of the best experiences a young mind could ask for. I got to help facilitate events hosted at the national headquarters and assisted with the CFC regional meetings like the Forum Conference.
Later in my college career, I was given the opportunity to intern at my local statewide, the Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperatives. Under the leadership of Addie Armato, I learned what how cooperatives are run from the state level and how each individual cooperative is supported by its statewide association.
Working with cooperatives for so long, I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many amazing people along the way. One of the most influential people along this journey would be the director of youth programs at the NRECA and our national director of Youth Tour, Ms. Beth Knudson. She believed in me since I was in high school, and I wouldn’t be here without her.
I also made lifelong bonds through my experiences with the cooperatives. One of them also works for Powerful, Caleigh Pickard, a Project Manager for Powerful has been one of the biggest blessings that has come from my time with cooperatives.
Outside of Cooperatives
I’ve had a few work experiences outside of the cooperative world that I believe has given me the opportunity to be well rounded. Most notably, in my college years, I was on staff with the LSU Football team as a student equipment manager. I worked this job for six years and saw many ups and downs within the organization.
The pinnacle of the years I spent on staff would have to be winning the 2019 National Championship, led by Coach Orgeron and Joe Burrow. The lessons I learned while on staff with a D1 football program have followed me into this next chapter of my life.
As I look toward to this chapter of my life with Powerful, I am excited to give back to those electric cooperatives that have given me so much in my life. When I look at our utility partners and their members, I see my parents, my grandparents and all those from my small town who have influenced me along this path.
That will always be my focus, to ensure those people have an easy to use and navigable website that can connect them with an ease of a click.
That right there is Powerful!