(NASHVILLE, TENN.) — The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association today honored Anadarko, Okla.-based Western Farmers Electric Cooperative (WFEC) with the Association’s Community Service Award for Youth Programs. The cooperative, which has been actively promoting geothermal heat pumps, won the award for a unique outreach program to students in two states heightening awareness of geothermal technology.
WFEC, on behalf of the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives, sponsored a scholarship contest for junior and senior high school students requiring the applicants to produce a video on geothermal technology. Students living in the service territories of WFEC’s member cooperatives in Oklahoma and eastern New Mexico were eligible.
“By investing in students and education, Western Farmer Electric Cooperative’s unique scholarship program not only increased awareness of geothermal technology, but also strengthened bonds between the co-op and the community. This program is a shining example of the fifth cooperative principle — educating members — in action,” said NRECA CEO Jo Ann Emerson.
“The Touchstone Energy Cooperatives are thrilled to have partnered on this exciting project for high school juniors and seniors,” said Mark Faulkenberry, WFEC’s manager, marketing and communication. “Whenever you get young people involved, it simply supports the longevity of the industry itself and builds an awareness of energy choices.”
Contestants in the fittingly named GoGoGeo Scholarship Video Challenge were given the task of expanding an understanding of geothermal technology through the social media realm, while at the same time being as creative and unique as possible. “We received some great entries that involved a lot of work, not only with the video production, but in researching geothermal technology,” Faulkenberry noted.
Close to $60,000 in scholarships and school education grants were awarded in the GoGoGeo competition. Scholarship dollars were awarded in two rounds of competition (regional and final), with the top winner taking away a $10,000 scholarship.
More than 175 students submitted videos, which were judged by the Oklahoma Secretary of Energy, Miss Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Secretary of Science & Technology. Ean Bonjour won the top prize, which was supplemented by earnings from a lawn-mowing business he started. The creativity and enthusiasm of the winning entries demonstrated the success of the program.
The fifth cooperative principle calls on cooperatives to “educate young people on the nature and benefits of cooperation.” The success of this partnership between the cooperative and the schools underscored the benefits.
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which provide service to 42 million people in 47 states.
More than 8,500 representatives from cooperative electric utilities across the nation are attending the NRECA Annual Meeting March 2-5, during which they will set NRECA’s legislative and organizational agenda for 2014. In addition to considering and acting upon policy resolutions, delegates receive reports from NRECA officials, hear addresses by key public figures and business experts, and attend educational forums on major issues affecting electric cooperatives and their consumer owners.