Fall Foliage, Ovando, Montana

Engaging the Members of Tomorrow

Posted: August 1, 2022
Mark Hayden, GM

As a member-owned electric cooperative, we aim to set the bar high when it comes to serving our members. Traditionally, you would think of adults when we say “member,” but we understand the importance of serving the entire family. You see, children are the members of tomorrow, and our belief is that we need to invest in their futures early-on. This investment comes in the form of annual school safety trainings, educational and line school scholarships, a Youth Ambassador Program, annual grants for school upgrades and more.

As a cooperative, we operate as a non-profit. Once operating expenses are paid, we allocate the remaining margins back to our members in the form of capital credits. With board approval, capital credits are paid out periodically. If the intended recipient cannot be located and their capital credits go unclaimed, they are applied to MEC’s Education Trust Fund, which helps to fund our educational programs. But what good are our programs if students don’t know about them?

As our local students embark on a new school year, I wanted to emphasize the many opportunities available to them through the Cooperative.

It’s not too late for schools to sign up for the 2022 School Safety Series, which is an opportunity to help educators “plug into safety,” within their schools and classrooms. The series kicks-off in September and will include a tour to participating schools within our service area. During this one-hour safety presentation, students will learn how to work and think smart around electricity, both in and out of the classroom. MEC’s Safety Specialist will reveal an “electrifying” demonstration, followed by hands-on experiments for different grade levels. Should your school choose to participate, your students will leave with lifelong learnings that will help to reduce their risk of electrical harm. To reserve your school’s spot, please email Sean, our Safety Specialist, at SeanE@meccoop.com. Spots will fill quickly, so we encourage you to reserve your training session as soon as possible.

MEC proudly invests in the leaders of tomorrow by offering annual scholarships to our members and/or their dependents. Each year, we award fifteen $1,000 scholarships to local students who are working to achieve their educational goals in Montana. In early-December, scholarship applications will be available on our website. From this group of applicants, fourteen recipients will be chosen to receive a $1,000 educational scholarship. A fifteenth, and final, $1,000 scholarship, is awarded to one lucky applicant during our Annual Meeting. MEC also awards two $1,000 scholarships to local students who are currently attending, or who plan to attend, an accredited Line School in the state of Montana.

We know some of the brightest students reside within our district schools and we want to give them an opportunity to experience the past, present and future of the United States. Each November, we accept Youth Tour essays from Sophomore and Junior students whose parent or legal guardian is a member at MEC. The winner of the essay contest will take part in a one-week, all-expenses paid trip to Washington D.C. to join more than 1,500 students from across the nation. Here, students will watch history come to life as they explore museums, memorials and monuments, and rub elbows with US Representatives and Senators, all while learning about the history of rural electrification and the value it brings to our communities.

As we continue to explore ways to engage a younger demographic of members, we open our minds to ideas, concepts and programs that haven’t existed at Missoula Electric Cooperative (MEC) in decades past. A newer program at MEC is our Youth Ambassador Program. This is a distinguished opportunity for high schoolers to contribute to their communities and enhance their leadership skills. Ambassadors can expect to partner with student leaders from other school districts, collaborate with our leadership team to grow their understanding of cooperatives, engage in their local communities through acts of service, and interact with our membership. In exchange for their service, students will receive a certificate of achievement, earn eligibility for scholastic awards, and receive a small per diem for each meeting attended. Applications to participate during the 2022 – 2023 school year are currently available on our website and will be accepted until Friday, September 9th.

The IEP Program provides upwards of $1,500, per year, to schools within the communities we serve. This donation can be used towards educational equipment, electronics, materials, field trips and supplies. Schools located within our service area or schools that educate our members’ dependents, are eligible for a monetary donation each fall. We traditionally accept applications on our website beginning in late-October.

As you can see, the investment we make in our local students is significant. We are proud to play a small part in paving their way to a brighter future.