Youth Tour Experience Inspires Co-op Career
Daniel Sanders | Mid-South Synergy, 2008
By Sheryl Smith-Rodgers | June 1, 2015
Daniel Sanders, 25, remembers exactly when he knew he wanted to devote his life to helping others.
After going on Youth Tour in 2008, Sanders entered Texas A&M University to study business. He attended the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Annual Meeting in New Orleans the next spring to fulfill his duties as the Texas representative on the Youth Leadership Council.
Sanders recalls serving lunch at the annual meeting, when the words of a guest speaker changed his life. “When I heard Abraham Awolich, a man from South Sudan, share how streetlights brought hope in his poor country,” he says, “I was stunned.”
Because of that presentation, Sanders—who now works as a construction supervisor with NRECA International—is helping to build the Haiti Rural Electric Cooperative, the country’s first consumer-owned utility. In Haiti, the electric utility is government-owned, and the power sector is one of the weakest in the Western Hemisphere, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Sanders, a Madisonville native, also credits Mid-South Synergy for allowing him to participate in the 2008 Youth Tour, which ultimately led him to New Orleans and other opportunities.
Deeply affected by Awolich’s words, Sanders changed his business major to community development. In 2012, he received his degree and continued working for Mid-South Synergy as he had in college.
Kerry Kelton, CEO of Mid-South Synergy, says he took a chance on hiring Sanders when he called asking for work so he could finish his degree. But he’s glad he did. “Daniel is a passionate young man who, while attending the Youth Tour, found a career,” Kelton says. “Passionate young men like Daniel are the future of our program.”
Sanders went to work for the NRECA in August 2013. He and his wife, Amanda, live in Côteaux, Haiti, where he is helping establish affordable, reliable electric service, and she teaches English as a volunteer at local schools.
“Things have definitely worked out for me professionally, all because of the Youth Tour,” Sanders says. “I’m living my dream because the co-op network helped me out.”