South Texas teen recounts magical trip to DC—where ‘the air was different’
By Fatima Figueroa, Magic Valley EC
NRECA Youth Leadership Council, 2018
They say hindsight is 20/20, and when it comes to my experience on Youth Tour, it truly was. If you would have told me that I was to make some of the best friends I have ever had, see the United States Constitution, become Texas’ Youth Leadership Council representative, visit the Library of Congress and get a tour of the Capitol all within 10 days, never would I have believed you. Nevertheless, it happened.
As I was packing, I remember thinking there was no way that this trip could have the impact that everybody had mentioned. They said that this was a trip of a lifetime and that nothing else would compare to the profound influence those 10 days I was about to spend with complete strangers could have on my future. Yet, I was not a believer in the power of Youth Tour, but when I arrived in Austin on that first day of the trip, things started to change. Although terrified by what I had gotten myself into, all I could think about was my desire to stand on the United States Senate floor.
Austin was an amazing experience full of buzzing new faces that were eager to create memories, and I am grateful for every moment I experienced (especially Home Slice Pizza), but Washington, D.C., was magical. Waking up at 3 a.m. to catch a plane to our nation’s capital required many alarm clocks, but it was worth every one of them. When I got off the plane, I disembarked to the very same streets where 45 presidents, hundreds of senators and countless trailblazers have set foot—leaders such as John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Sandra Day O’Connor and others who became the backbone of our great nation. The air was different. It held their power. The city represents opportunity, change and freedom. It serves as a symbol of our country—and there I was.
Every minute became my favorite, from visiting the Smithsonian in the company of new, lifelong friends to exploring just a fraction of the Library of Congress’ 838 miles of bookshelves to parading the streets alongside the Washington Capitals as they celebrated their Stanley Cup victory —not to mention far surpassing my goal of 10,000 steps each day.
My time in D.C. was incomparable to anything I had ever experienced. The opportunity I had to stand in the Senate chamber was beyond my comprehension; I was speechless, and my eyes filled with tears. I come from a small city in the Rio Grande Valley, where opportunity is scarce, but at that moment, nothing else mattered. I was there, standing on the same floor as some of my political heroes, in a room where history is made and where I, too, hope to make history someday. I felt the power to change the world within my bones. I became a better person because of this journey, and I am confident its impact will stay with me for many years to come.
I can recount my every memory of Youth Tour, but if you are among those lucky enough to be selected for this journey, I will leave you to make your own. Youth Tour was nothing short of a trip of a lifetime with every second surpassing the last. Yet, none of it would be possible if not for my local co-op, Magic Valley Electric Cooperative, and Texas Electric Cooperatives. I am eternally grateful for the seed they planted in me and hope that you have an even better adventure. For now, I leave you with the words of American author H. Jackson Brown Jr.: “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
So, make the most of your time there because it, too, will one day be history.
Fatima Figueroa of Edinburg attends Robert Vela High School and hopes to one day become a U.S. senator.