Short Story Guidelines

The Washington Youth Tour Writing Contest is a wonderful opportunity for a weeklong, all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC, open to high school junior students.  Think of the short story as an infomercial, through entertaining dialogue among the writer's characters, which promotes electric cooperatives and all the benefits they bring to the members.  Most importantly, after reading the short story the individual should have a clear understanding that an electric cooperative is a not-for-profit, member owned distributor of electricity which ensures the future success of its service area by powering the potential of the community.  The students should have a clear understanding of the ways co-ops go beyond merely providing electricity by offering valuable programs and resources to their members.  Of course, we want to be entertained when reading, yet we need the stories to be centered on the cooperative concept.  Therefore, the judging percentages are structured to reflect this.

  • Appropriate treatment of theme and knowledge of subject will be 50%.
  • Originality will account for 35%.
  • Grammar and composition will be 15%.

What is an Electric Cooperative?

  • Consumer-owned provider of electricity; owned and operated on a not-for-profit basis.
  • The consumers are the members, who are also the owners. 
  • Your parents, who pay a bill, are the owners of the electric cooperative, and you are future members.
  • We have a Board of Directors, and each year Cooperatives hold an annual meeting and members vote on the directors, allowing for democratic control.
  • One of the responsibilities of cooperatives is to educate members.  We do so through youth programs, such as Washington Youth Tour, The Tennessee Magazine, Home Shows, bill inserts, Facebook, and our website.

This is not a research paper, but we do want you to grasp what it means to be a member of an electric cooperative.  Do not try to include every detail, program, and resource provided.  If you attempt to do so, then your story is not going to be very entertaining.  It is strongly suggested that students primarily incorporate a few of the concepts listed below into their short story.  This will prevent information overload witnessed in the past.  I have provided some information which pertains to these concepts.

  • Green Power
    • The Green Power Switch Program was developed as a way to bring clean, green power to members.  You can buy green power, generated by cleaner, renewable resources such as solar, wind, and methane gas, in 150-kilowatt-hour blocks.  Each block purchased adds only $4 to your monthly power bill.
    • The Green Power Providers Program provides technical support and incentives for the installation of renewable generation systems. The program makes more green power available for Green Power Switch subscribers, and it creates a market for green power generation by homeowners and businesses.
  • Energy efficiency-encourages and supports the wise and efficient use of electricity in homes.
    • Why do Cooperatives encourage Energy Efficiency?
      • The Southeast is among the most inefficient regions of the country, wasting tremendous amounts of energy that is generated primarily from high-risk, nonrenewable resources like coal.  The historically irresponsible use of energy in the Southeast means there is tremendous potential for energy efficiency to address growing energy demand and lower the cost of the members’ bills.  Energy efficiency makes economic, social and environmental sense.
    • The eScore Energy Evaluation Program is designed to encourage the installation of energy-efficiency improvements in existing single-family dwellings, providing an outline for potential energy-efficiency modifications.
  • Youth programs
    • Washington Youth Tour Writing Contest.  Tennessee's electric co-ops send students to Washington, DC, for a number of reasons including:
      • Rewarding students for academic achievement through a writing contest;
      • Educating students about the role of electric co-ops in the national economy;
      • Fostering students' appreciation for the democratic form of government;
      • Exposing students to the sights and sounds of our nation's heritage; and
      • Building students' leadership skills so that they may make a difference in their communities.
    • Youth Leadership Summit is designed for leadership development and state government education. It is free to selected high school juniors. It consists of two days of intensive educational activities, as well as a lot of fun.
    • Electric Camp is an exciting, fun-filled adventure exploring the laws of science and electricity. It is for 6th and 7th grade 4-H students and is held at the University of Tennessee Knoxville Campus each summer. It consists of hands-on activities in which students learn about the safe and proper use of electricity, as well as aspects of other sciences.
    • School Safety Programs - At a teacher’s request, a trained cooperative representative will bring electrical safety to life with a fun and informative presentation to help students respect and value the role electricity plays in their lives.  Regardless of age, there are classroom demonstrations, hands-on projects, and visual materials to help make learning about electricity an enjoyable and educational experience.
  • Job creation/Industrial development
    • Electric Cooperatives are very active in their local Chambers of Commerce, and encourage and support the birth and growth of businesses in the area.
    • Many General Managers and Board Members serve on local industrial boards, which are responsible for recruiting new industries and promoting economic growth.
    • The Valley Investment Initiative is available as an economic development incentive providing credits on power bills to qualifying companies that locate or expand in the region.  In today's competitive climate, the program offers significant economic advantages.
  • Community Organizations and Events
    • Cooperative managers, board members, and employees take active roles in sustaining the development of their communities.  Through civic organizations such as the American Red Cross, The United Way, The Rotary Foundation, The Boys and Girls Club, Boy Scouts of America, Girls Scouts of America, and Kiwanis International, your cooperative employees volunteer their time and make donations to help improve the lives of those in need.
    • Environmental events, such as a lake cleanup or the planting of trees, are just more ways your cooperative works to improve the community.
    • Working together with local community service organizations, your cooperative contributes to a program to help elderly, disabled, and financially burdened individuals who have limited incomes.  The funds contributed by members and the cooperative provide a once-a-year payment to ensure those who meet specific criteria are able to maintain electrical service during the winter.  For those who have recently lost their jobs, live on a limited income, or have endured other hardships, this assistance means that they do not have to choose between heat and food.

In the story, you need to encompass the theme, and include future goals of your community, through your participation, and the assistance of the Electric Cooperatives.  Example:  Tommy knew the community’s future depended upon the power of citizens, like himself, making a difference.  By supporting energy efficiency and energy conservation, he and his local electric cooperative would harness the potential to make substantial changes in the years to come.

Finally, the following guidelines may not be specifically stated in the new booklet, and students need to be aware of the following rules.

  • Short story must be typewritten and double-spaced in 12 pt. font of Arial, Courier New, Calibri, or Times New Roman.
  • Short story must include a cover page including the title “Electric Cooperatives: Powering Potential” and an exact word count.
  • Short story cannot be over 900 words.  “A,” “and,” and “the” count as words.
  • The name of the student’s cooperative, school, town, or county should not be used.  A fictitious name is acceptable.
  • Students should save their short stories to memory stick or a personal pc, and those who make it to the semi-finals will need to provide their teacher with the electronic version.
  • Students should not refer to cooperatives as “non-profit” organizations.  The correct terminology is not-for-profit.


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