Deanna Duensing | Southwest Rural EA, 2018
By Jessica Ridge | June 1, 2019
Despite being an accomplished public speaker, Deanna Duensing worried she wouldn’t find anyone to talk to on Youth Tour. The University Interscholastic League speech competitor’s butterflies evaporated quickly, though. Youth Tour attendees bonded so much by the trip’s end that “nobody actually really wanted to leave,” she says.
An Electra High School cheerleader and tutor in math, science and English, Duensing had previously visited Washington, D.C. But this trip required a new self-reliance and encouraged an autonomy she enjoyed, such as deciding which Smithsonian museums to explore and budgeting time at each. “It was really self-paced,” she says. “You could go to any of them—you just had to have a buddy system.”
But for Duensing, who was sponsored by Southwest Rural Electric Association, Youth Tour wasn’t just about the destinations or gaining a little independence. It also helped her to branch out and discover who she is and what she wants to do. She plans to study social work and hopes to work with emotional support animals in a children’s hospital. “Youth Tour just reinforced the fact that I really want to work with people on a day-to-day basis and play a part in their life,” she says.
It’s a transformative experience she wishes for future Youth Tour attendees but one that she says requires they immerse themselves in the adventure. “Don’t be nervous, and try to stay off your electronics. You can talk to anyone back home as soon as you get back, but the people there—you have to build a bond with them because you might not get a chance to afterwards.”
Developing those real-world relationships, Duensing says, provides a learning opportunity like none other.
“We can read a book or learn something off TV or the internet, but until you’re talking to people and learning about their experiences, that’s when you actually make real connections with the world.”