Current Youth Tour Winner

Current Youth Tour Winner

Baleigh Ripplinger wins Youth Tour Essay Contest

Congratulations to Baleigh Ripplinger, a student at McClusky High School, for winning this year’s Youth Tour contest with his essay. She will be taking an all-expenses-paid educational trip to Washington, D.C. in June with students from across the United States. The trip includes personal visits with the North Dakota Congressional Delegation. She will have many learning opportunities while she tours places like the WWII and Vietnam War memorials, Holocaust Museum, Smithsonian, Library of Congress and more.

Congratulations Baleigh!

Baleigh Ripplinger’s Youth Tour Essay


1:  to give official authority or legal power to

2:  enable

3:  to promote the self-actualization or influence of

                                                                                                     Merriam Webster


     Webster defines the word “empower”.  It is the perfect word to describe our electric cooperatives yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  Operated by and for the people, electric cooperatives were originally formed to bring affordable and reliable electricity or “power” to homes and farms across the North Dakota prairie.  This goal and initiative empowered members to improve the quality of their lives.  The same spirit of purpose and cooperation embraces the changing energy needs of the next generation of cooperative owners.  Technology and social media can further empower consumers, employees, and communities.    

     Investing in people, technology, and new opportunities empowers both our electric cooperatives and our local communities to thrive.  The electric industry supports 7 million jobs and puts $888 billion into our economy.  A journeymen, lineman, or apprentice are often job titles one thinks of when you mention electricity.  Today with advancements in technology job titles include cyber security analyst, fiber installer, or GIS (geographic information specialist).  Technology connects, develops, and empowers employees.  People are informed and may communicate anytime and anywhere from any device.  This opportunity increases productivity, provides better service, as well as collecting consistent and accurate data. 

     Technology empowers a person to do things they did not dream of doing five years ago.  Today’s local hospitals, fire and police departments, and area schools are good examples of places that are utilizing advancements.  Thomas Alva Edison experimented with a light bulb, phonograph, and motion picture cameras.  Imagine his thoughts today seeing a LifeLink helicopter, GPS precision farming, self-driving cars, dispatch announcements, and distance learning.  “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest”, said Edison.  Benjamin Franklin conducted experiments with a kite and key in the 1740s in hopes of providing electricity for not just the wealthy but for all citizens.  Both men dreamed of empowering others. 

     Technology has changed the way we work and the way we communicate.  Not everyone goes into an office, information is shared instantly, and customers may utilize paperless online billing.   I think inventions like a Smart thermostat are innovative and will interest all home owners.  Today’s leaders need to be good communicators and listeners, hardworking and motivated, knowledgeable and visionary.  Tomorrow’s leaders need to be those things and networkers, diverse, and tech-savvy.  To empower leadership and to keep the rural communities strong we need to make learning, provide training, and promote opportunities as the priorities.  Students love technology, and are quickly proficient.  North Dakota Living, Facebook sites, and scholarships all raise awareness.  The combination of investing in people, the use of technology, and promoting awareness of both new inventions and career opportunities will meet the needs of electric cooperative members. 

     Webster, Edison, and Franklin may not have seen the importance or the connection of the word “empower” as it relates to my electric cooperative.  Verendrye Electric Cooperative, or any of today’s electric cooperatives, may define empower as:

1: to improve the quality of life

2: to allow local communities to thrive

3: to connect with and develop employee leadership

4: to enable member cooperatives to accomplish things they never dreamt of, to engage, to inform to reach new generations through technology and social media