How busy was your summer?
Shantelle Des Marais spent a total of three nights at home in July.
The high school senior from Pipestone, MN, spent her time traveling to Wisconsin, Washington D.C. and Virginia – a journey that can be traced back to the EmPOWER Youth Leadership program started last summer by Sioux Valley Energy, a Basin Electric Class C member cooperative headquartered in Colman, SD.
Des Marais was part of the inaugural group of students to complete EmPOWER. The Sioux Valley Energy board of directors thought of and developed the concept of a youth leadership program at one of their strategic planning sessions. Directors asked themselves, who would be tomorrow’s leaders for electric cooperatives?
They decided it was the cooperative’s responsibility to find and help develop them, so they committed funding to develop leaders within the Sioux Valley Energy service territory. Sioux Valley management tasked Jennie Patrick, Sioux Valley Energy marketing specialist, with program development for EmPOWER.
When Des Marais saw the poster for EmPOWER in her school, she says the word “leadership” caught her attention. “Of course, it sounds like it would be good on a resumé, but it was a lot more than what I thought I was getting into,” she says.
Des Marais says EmPOWER helped her move past her shyness and develop her speaking skills. Overall, the whole process has changed her. “First of all, I know what co-ops are. But I have always known I wanted to do something good with my life, and this has shown me how I can achieve that,” she says. “I got to meet with senators and representatives. They took the time to meet with us, and it showed me we are a part of this. It’s not us and them – we are the government, and we have the power to maybe be one of them someday. … I think to be able to see our current leaders and know that’s where I want to be someday, it really put it into perspective as something tangible.”