When applications opened for the 2023 Youth Tour trip to Washington, D.C., PEC Distribution Planner Melissa McMahon knew it was an opportunity for a memorable experience for her son, Aedan McLennan.
“I found out about Youth Tour when I started five years ago,” McMahon recalled. “It was presented to new hires as a community outreach program, and I thought, ‘OK, what are the ages and when can Aedan apply?’”
In 2023, as Youth Tour opened back up after the COVID-19 pandemic, two PEC families sent their children on the trip to Washington, D.C.: McMahon and McLennan, and Tony and Amelia Rae Perez.
McMahon and McLennan had planned to apply when McLennan was a sophomore in 2020, but the trip was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2023, PEC brought back the popular program that has been so valuable to students for more than 60 years.
“This was the first year that it was back on, and it was just in the nick of time for his senior year,” she said.
McLennan was filling out scholarship applications for college when his mom reminded him of the trip.
“I thought I might as well apply for it, and I’m glad I did,” he said.
On the tour, McLennan made several connections he will remember for a lifetime, thanks to the “pin” system.
“PEC provided a lot of icebreakers for us,” he said. “Each co-op had its own pin, so when you would meet somebody, you would ask them where they were from and trade pins with them. That was a great way to become less of a stranger to everyone.”
He was excited to see the Smithsonian museums and historic landmarks such as the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. And not only did he get to visit those places, but he also learned about new locations, such as George Washington’s house and Mt. Vernon.
“Those were some of my favorite places to go to,” he said. “It was so beautiful there, and there was so much history. The way they preserved it was incredible.”
McMahon was ecstatic when her son got the call, as it reminded her of when she took a trip to D.C. in middle school.
“That’s something I still remember, so for him to get to go was such a great experience,” she said. “We compared going to see things like Washington’s house and other landmarks, so that was a nice bonding moment.”
She’s also seen a boost of confidence in her son since coming back from the trip.
“Aedan always said he was born 30,” she said. “He’s been mature from day one, but there is just a different level of experiences he’s been able to obtain during the trip, from meeting new people to networking and meeting a representative.”
Interestingly, their broader family was also able to connect through McLennan’s experiences on the tour.
“Ironically, his grandfather gets the newsletter from the representative he met, and he called when he saw Aedan in the newsletter,” McMahon said. “He has an aunt in Wisconsin who is a librarian, so he sent a picture of his Library of Congress card, and so it impacted the outlining family as well as the immediate family.”
This trip will be something McLennan will carry with him and remember throughout his life, and while he was nervous at first, he said it was jumping in headfirst was more than worth it.
“Getting on a plane and sharing hotel rooms with people I’ve never met in another state was a big leap, but I’m glad I did it,” McLennan said. “Just like anything else that requires risk, usually the rewards are a lot bigger than you would expect, so I’m very glad I took that chance.”
To other PEC employees who are parents of high school students, McMahon would recommend taking the leap and applying.
“It’s such a valuable experience,” she said. “You don’t know what you don’t know, and your kids have this amazing opportunity through this company to go and experience this complete package.”
She also was never worried about her son because of how many chaperones were assigned to look out for the students.
“Everything is so well organized that you can send your kid off on an adventure and not be worried,” she said.
To learn more about Youth Tour and how to apply, go to pec.coop/youth-tour.