As winners of the 45th annual DEMCO essay contest, local high school students Winsome Brass, Victor Costa, Haley Drago, Alexandra Fertitta, Kennedy Hughes and Victoria Winter each win an all-expense paid trip to Washington, DC. Over three hundred students participated in the 2022 DEMCO essay contest from schools in DEMCO’s seven-parish service area: Ascension, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Livingston, St. Helena, Tangipahoa and West Feliciana.
Six winners were selected on March 15 during an evening banquet honoring the eleven finalists, their families, and teachers. The banquet was held at White Oak Plantation in Baton Rouge. Prior to the event, essays were judged by an independent panel of judges who narrowed the field to the eleven finalists. The six winners will serve as DEMCO student delegates at the 2022 NRECA Youth Tour. Winsome Brass is a student at Central High School, Victor Costa attends Zachary High School, Halley Drago Central High School, Alexandra Fertitta attends St. Joseph’s Academy, Kennedy Hughes attends Zachary High School and Victoria Winter attends Winter Classical Academy Homeschool. The other five finalists included Mollie Bennett (St. Amant High School), Gregory Crain (Denham Springs High School), Elisabeth Hong, Shelly Jones and Emillie’ Williams (West Feliciana High School).
DEMCO CEO and General Manager Randy Pierce welcomed guests at the event. “I’ll never take for granted the joy that we share when we are able to come together. For the past two years we’ve held this competition on Zoom and though it was great to hear all the students perform, there’s no comparison to being here with you all tonight to celebrate these students.” Pierce also introduced DEMCO board members in attendance: Leslie Falks, Melissa Dufreche, Jill McGraw and Kevin Beauchamp. “DEMCO prides itself on being a good citizen and the annual essay contest is a great example of how we support area youth in the communities we serve,” says Pierce. “We are very fortunate to have board members who support community efforts such as this.”
At the event, student finalists were tested on their knowledge of the history of rural electrification and DEMCO facts, in addition to their oral essay presentation. Judges of the oral presentations were Jay Grymes, chief meteorologist at WAFB 9News, Jennifer Marsh, local sales manager for Louisiana Radio Network, and Trey Williams, account manager of Feigley Communications. Keynote speaker for the evening was Jay Ducote, who talked about how he found his true passion in cooking. He praised the students for writing such thoughtful essays and encouraged them to pursue their passions. “What you’ve done here tonight shows that each of you already has so much passion for the topics you presented – I’m inspired by what I heard here tonight,” said Ducote. Louisiana Youth Tour director and Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperatives CEO Addie Armato was also on hand to meet the contest winners. Along with ALEC’s Zach Averette, Armato will chaperone the students on the summer trip to Washington, DC. During their stay in Washington, the Louisiana Youth Tour participants will visit the U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, Supreme Court, National Archives, Arlington Cemetery, and many other historically significant buildings and landmarks. “The essay contest provides so many learning opportunities for participating students to gain a better understanding of electric cooperatives as well as insight into how their national government operates,” said Randy Pierce, DEMCO CEO and General Manager. “It’s a wonderful annual event that demonstrates our commitment to co-op members, in education, and to the communities we serve.” The youth will also join about 1,500 other Youth Tour participants from 43 different states to learn more about electric cooperatives. DEMCO pioneered Louisiana participation in the Rural Electric Youth Tour in 1978 when it sent the first students from Louisiana to Washington, D.C. The purpose of the Youth Tour program is to provide outstanding youth with an insight into how their national government operates.