Moorefield High Seniors Marissa Ratliff and Olivia Davis described their experience at the 2018 Foundation for Rural Service Youth Tour in Washington, D.C., as an “amazing” and “awesome opportunity.”
Marissa and Olivia visited D.C. from June 2-6 as part of the tour, which brought more than 100 students, all sponsored by rural telecommunications companies, to our nation’s capital. Hardy paid all expenses for the pair.
The tour is arranged by the Foundation for Rural Service, a non-profit established in 1994 by NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association to support rural telecom companies, consumers and policy-makers with educational information, products and programming. The goal of the Youth Tour is to give rural students the chance to see Washington, D.C., while also learning about the challenges of providing broadband in rural areas. The tour includes visits to Capitol Hill and the Federal Communications Commission.
Because the tour brings together students from all over the country, it’s also an opportunity to make new friends and discover what it’s like to live in different places in the United States.
Marissa said the first evening was a little intimidating because she was meeting so many new people.
“We immediately began meeting students from across the United States as soon as we arrived, followed by a group dinner and break-out sessions in our assigned small groups. The meet and greet was a little scary for me to go outside of my comfort zone, yet fun to meet lots of new people and learn their backgrounds,” she said.
Rainy weather didn’t dampen the students’ enthusiasm, as the tour included visits to Arlington National Cemetery, the Smithsonian Museums, the World War II, Vietnam and Korean War Memorials, the Lincoln Monument, the U.S. Capitol, the Library of Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the Newseum, Mount Vernon, and the F.D.R. and Martin Luther King Memorials. The students also were able to view the outside of the White House.
Marissa said she was particularly moved by watching the Changing of the Guard at Arlington. She said it was “a ritual that is simply amazing.”
As part of the educational sessions, the students heard from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, where they had the chance to ask questions about what the FCC is doing to support the expansion of broadband in rural America.
“I found it interesting that the security to enter the FCC building was greater than that of the United States Capitol,” Ratliff said.
The students also learned from one another. FRS leaders had the students break out into six groups, each group discussing a topic or current concern in rural America and how broadband can help with that issue. Marissa talked with other students about substance abuse in rural America, and how broadband can be used to educate parents, caregivers, and others about the signs and symptoms of substance abuse, then provide help numbers or online assistance.
Both Marissa and Olivia said they will continue the friendships they made.
“I met so many new and different people and made friendships that will last a lifetime,” Olivia said. “I discovered new things at D.C. even though I have been there a million times.”
Marissa said she’ll use broadband to stay in touch with the students she met.
“Thanks to broadband and social media, we will be able to stay in contact and not only share pictures, but also videos of our hometowns, schools, and rural areas in general,” she said.
Both students thanked Hardy Telecommunications for the wonderful opportunity.