COCHISE COUNTY — Nine area high school juniors will be provided an all-expenses paid trip to the nation’s capital in June after being selected from a field that began with more than 700 students competing in the 40th annual Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative Washington Youth Tour.

Six other juniors were selected as finalists and received $200 for their efforts in the competition. If these students choose to join the tour, they are eligible to receive $500 from Arizona G&T and an additional $500 from SSVEC to reduce the cost of the trip.

“We want as many students to participate as possible,” said Marcus Harston, organizer of the annual program and community relations coordinator for SSVEC. “So, we secured additional funding to make the cost of participating on the tour as affordable as possible for our six finalists.”

Funding for the Washington Youth Tour is provided by the Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative Foundation. The foundation generates its revenue from uncollected money from SSVEC members. Each year, SSVEC follows legal requirements to return money (refundable deposits, fees and capital credits) to its members. If the cooperative is unable to locate individuals, the money is contributed to the foundation.

Winners of the all-expense paid trip include Allison Crouch and Samuel Roark from Buena High School; Rebecca Ford from Patagonia High School; Marek Haynie, Taylee Jacquez and Brayten Trejo from St. David High School; Jamie Vasquez from Valley Union High School; and homeschool student Eden Wilson.

Finalists include Joshua Asato from Tombstone High School, Ashley Flissar and Nicole Lease from Buena High School, Malia Rogers and Allison Wilson from Willcox High School and homeschool student Noelani Runyon.

Juniors attending high schools and homeschooled students in the SSVEC service area received a presentation on the tour program this fall. Harston traveled to area schools and made 30 presentations to students, explaining the program and outlining how to earn the all-expenses paid trip.

Participants started the process by taking a test, with the top scorers invited to submit an essay. From the field of essayists, 17 students were offered the opportunity to earn one of the nine all-expenses paid trips.

On Wednesday, Nov. 17, a group of 15 students competed for the trip, taking an exam and participating in an interview. Test and interview scores were then tallied, with the nine winners being announced that evening during a dinner that parents were encouraged to attend.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that students will never forget,” Harston said. “They get to meet fellow students representing electric cooperatives from throughout the United States and they get to tour historic sites and buildings in the nation’s capital.”

Since 1981, the Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative Foundation has sponsored high school juniors on the all-expense-paid trip. Students attend seminars and meetings sponsored by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association visit Congress and the White House and see the sights at our nation’s capital.