Youth Leadership Program

Southwest Electric participates with other electric cooperatives in Mississippi in an annual Youth Leadership Program designed for high school juniors.  The Program, now in its 35th year, is sponsored by the Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi.  Southwest Electric has participated in the Program for 34 years.  The Program is designed to provide students with an opportunity to learn about rural electrification, how and why cooperatives operate and how electricity is distributed, in addition to sharpening their leadership skills.

Criteria for Selection

The Youth Leadership Program is open to junior class members in high schools located within Southwest Electric’s service area.  Each high school can select up to two students to participate in Cooperative University.  The Program is also open to homeschool students.

Students must:

  • Reside with a parent or guardian who is a Southwest Electric Member
  • Hold a B-point average in English, science, geography and mathematics
  • Have a solid school attendance record
  • Participate in extra-curricular activities sponsored by the school
  • Be active in youth leadership, church, civic or community activities
  • Exhibit outstanding citizenship and have the respect of fellow classmates
  • Possess a good personality


Students must be able to attend the following:

  • Cooperative University – December 7, 2021
  • Cooperative University Interviews – December 8, 2021
  • Workshop in Jackson, MS -March 2-4, 2022
  • Tour in Washington, D.C. – June 18-24, 2022
  • Annual Meeting – TBD
Our 2020 students, Will McCullough (Loyd Star Attendance Center), DeMarria Brown (Natchez High School), Tomia Jones (Jefferson County High School), and Savana Ashley (Wilkinson County Christian Academy), at the State Capitol in Jackson, MS.

Cooperative University

Cooperative University is a day where each school is represented by at least one student.  A counselor or teacher from each school is invited to attend.  Each student is expected to attend the all-day event in its entirety.  The day consists of speakers, games and a hands-on learning project.  Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. and the day concludes by 2:30 p.m.  Lunch is served and a t-shirt is provided.  Students are encouraged to wear long pants and closed-toe shoes.


Cooperative University teaches students about Southwest Electric and what it means to be a Member.  The students learn about the history of cooperatives, the cooperative business model, how electricity is generated, the fuels used to produce electricity and how electricity reaches their homes.  They also hear about a day in the life of a lineman, see a bucket truck and transformers and much more.  The Youth Leadership Program is explained including what to expect at the Workshop in Jackson and the Tour in Washington, D.C.  Representatives from the previous year speak about the highlights of the Program.  And, finally, legislators are invited to discuss how state government works, their roles in it and their personal and political career backgrounds, and answer students’ questions.


Students are interviewed by a panel of out-of-town judges.  Based on their participation and interview, the judges will select students to represent Southwest Electric at the Workshop in Jackson and Tour in Washington, D.C.  All students will receive notification of their results.


The students selected will represent Southwest Electric at the Youth Leadership Workshop in Jackson and at the Youth Tour of Washington, D.C.  Students’ expenses are funded entirely by Southwest Electric.  There are no hidden costs.  Southwest Electric pays for all travel, lodgings, meals, educational materials and admission fees.  Parents and guardians do not have to worry about safety.  Students are under adult supervision at all times.

Pictures from the Cooperative University held at the Meyer-Marx Building in Port Gibson on December 10, 2019.


Contact Jeremy Smith at or 601-437-1359.  Students can also contact their school counselors or designated teachers at their schools.  

See photos of the 2019 Youth Leadership Tour and learn more information about the Youth Leadership Program on our statewide website.

Senator Roger Wicker enjoyed meeting students in Washington, D.C., in June 2019.
Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith spoke to students at the Hart Senate Office Building in June 2019.