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RFHS senior shares experiences at WECA Annual Meetings

River Falls High School senior William Tuchtenhagen (center) is pictured with former U.S. Congressman and current National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO Jim Mattheson (left) and Pierce Pepin CEO and State WECA Vice Chair Larry Dokkestul during the recent Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association Annual Meeting in LaCrosse. Submitted photo

River Falls High School senior William Tuchtenhagen recently spoke about his experiences as Wisconsin's delegate to the National Youth Leadership Congress in Washington, D. C. during the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association (WECA) Annual Meeting in La Crosse, from Nov. 14-15.

"I was recommended for the program by my counselor at school. She brought it up to me as a leadership camp, but I didn't entirely know what it was right away. When I went, I found that it was actually about learning about cooperatives and what they are. It is for kids that live along cooperative lines, who get power from them," Tuchtenhagen said. "It was basically a leadership camp about cooperatives."

In the summer of 2017, Tuchtenhagen took part in the Youth Leadership Conference at UW-River Falls and this past summer he participated in the Youth Tour in Washington, D.C. Those led to Tuchtenhagen being asked to be part of the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association (WECA) annual meeting in La Crosse. During the two-day event, Tuchtenhagen spoke about his experiences as Wisconsin's delegate to the National Youth Leadership Congress in Washington, D. C.

"I was asked by the state director, who took us on the Youth Tour this last summer, to be on a panel for the event to talk about the youth programs cooperatives are doing," Tuchtenhagen said. "They asked me to give one big run down of what I did in my two years through the programs and how it impacted me, as well as what it did for me."

According to Tuchtenhagen, being part of the conferences helped him gain confidence, especially when it came to public speaking.

"If I hadn't gone through the programs, I might not have had the courage to talk in front of all those people at the annual meeting. I also met so many new people, including a couple of our congressmen while I was in Washington D.C. That was a new experience for me," Tuchtenhagen said. "The entire program was really life-changing for me. I met so many interesting new people and got to go through a lot of new experiences. It was really fantastic. It meant a lot to me to be part of it."

In March, Tuchtenhagen will continue his involvement with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association when he attends the national conference in Orlando.

"The state representatives will be running a bunch of stuff while we are there, including running a booth that will outline the programs we are in. We will also get to carry our state flag onto the stage as part of the conference. Some of us will be taking part in another panel and giving talks about youth programs," Tuchtenhagen said. "Youth programs have been something that are really important to cooperatives as of late because they are trying to bring in the next generation of cooperative owners."

For those interested the Wisconsin Youth Leadership Congress and other youth programs offered by the coops, visit weca.coop/youth-leadership-congress or electric.coop/our-organization/youth-programs.

"Being a representative for something of this magnitude is new for me. I have never been picked to represent anything of this level, let alone my entire state. It has been really eye-opening for me to see all the things that are going on through cooperatives. I didn't even know what a cooperative was until I went to the UWRF program last summer," Tuchtenhagen said. "It has been really awesome for me and I just want more people to participate in the programs that I did, because it has been a really great experience for me and I think it would be great for other people, too."

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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