Coosa Valley Electric Cooperative’s (CVEC) mission includes educating its board members and personnel in ways that improve the organization’s performance and service to its membership.
In the same spirit, connecting education efforts with a concern for community — one of seven core electric cooperative principles — also leads to several efforts that benefit area students in many ways.
“While our primary job is to provide safe, reliable and affordable electricity to the region, we view ourselves as a community partner that can provide other benefits,” says Jon Cullimore, CVEC general manager. “By involving ourselves in educational efforts within the community, we keep the future generations safe and offer chances for them to become great leaders who will guide the region to new heights.”
Localizing Safety Practices
One of Coosa Valley Electric Cooperative’s longstanding educational programs focuses on public well-being — the Hot Line demonstration. For years, the centerpiece of the demonstration was a table with connected “power lines” that arc electricity when touched by metal items.
While the table remains the centerpiece, a recent program revamp has added more visual elements that further safety education and awareness.
“We’ve created posters of what a power pole looks like — also what a lineman wears and the tools he uses,” says Lucas Armbrester, a CVEC staking technician who leads the program. “We want to let the kids know what a lineman looks like, how they’re dressed, what their capacity is and explain to them what a power line is.”
Meanwhile the cooperative has also added new elements to the demonstration table to make the content more relatable to today’s youth. These elements include generators and farm equipment that potentially can touch power lines.
All the content presents insight into real-life situations that can save lives.
“Another big subject is what happens if a line falls down on a bus — something they can really relate to at school,” Armbrester says. “We also discuss kites. Cullman Electric Cooperative recently had an incident where a kite got wrapped around a power line, and the kite strings were dangling down. That’s the exact scenario we go over.”
The Hot Line demonstration is available for students of all ages.
Another keystone program, the Youth Tour, teaches area high school juniors valuable history lessons from both the state and national perspective. Furthermore, it presents opportunities for students to learn how electric cooperatives shaped rural America’s development.
In the fall of each year, students at local schools write essays regarding electric cooperatives. A panel of judges select the students with the best entries, and those competitors study for a test on electric cooperative history that is taken in January.
Alongside the test, the participants undergo a professional interview to further test their cooperative knowledge and provide them with more real-world experiences.
Joanna Rayburn, a student at Westbrook Christian School in Rainbow City, calls the Youth Tour program a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
“Little did I know that one essay would truly have such a big impact on me,” she says. “I absolutely loved getting to meet people from many different places throughout Alabama and the country. Visiting Washington, D.C., was a longtime wish for me. I got to see so many important historical landmarks, learn more about U.S. history and government and see many fun and exciting parts of Washington, D.C.”
Rayburn says the program also highlights the value of teamwork in creating a better world.
“Electric cooperatives are an amazing example of how people can gather and work together to achieve a common goal,” she says. “The whole Youth Tour experience was truly memorable, and I am forever indebted to Coosa Valley Electric Cooperative for making it all possible.”
CVEC invests in the next generation in a few other ways.
The cooperative awards several $4,000 scholarships each year to high school seniors whose parents or legal guardians are cooperative members. Interested students must contact their high school guidance counselors to apply for the scholarship.
The cooperative also supports several area youth and high school athletic teams and clubs financially upon request. In 2022, CVEC contributed more than $26,000 to 65 different organizations in the community — 34 of which were school or education-related.
“Given our wide array of education outreach efforts, CVEC can play an important role in the development of children of any age,” says Jeremy Wise, Coosa Valley Electric Cooperative’s manager of marketing and member services. “Cooperatives have proven that teamwork accomplishes so much, and partnering with local schools and related organizations deeply enriches our children’s lives. We’re proud to invest greatly in our region’s future.”