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High school students from Wisconsin and Minnesota attended Cooperative Network’s 2018 Co-ops Yes! Youth Leadership Conference in Eau Claire, Wis. this week. The two-day conference, held March 5-6, offered attendees a variety of cooperative and leadership learning opportunities and focused on the theme: “Co-ops Commit”.

“Cooperative businesses are committed to education, training and information for the next generation of cooperative members and leaders,” says Ethan Giebel, Cooperative Network’s Government and Educational Services Director. Co-ops Yes! brings together students from across the Upper Midwest to learn about the cooperative business model, develop leadership skills and make connections.”

On the first day, attendees heard a Co-ops 101 presentation by Courtney Berner of the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives; a “Next Generation Cooperation” panel including Tammy Wiedenbeck from Equity Cooperative Livestock Sales Association, Katie Jagiello of Oconto Electric Cooperative and Jenny Bernhardt from Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative; and “Concern for Community” by Rochelle Ripp Schnadt of Compeer Financial. These sessions were followed by a “Breakthrough Leadership” seminar from Craig Hillier of Winning Edge Seminars.

On the second day, students were allowed to choose from the following breakout sessions: “The REA Movement – Alison Deelstra, Minnesota Rural Electric Association; “Directing Your Future in the Cooperative System” – William Frantz, Land O’Lakes; and “Leadership Through Cooperation” – Lisa Konkel, Big Foot High School. Leadership Facilitator and Past National FFA Officer Valerie Early concluded the speaker program with a presentation on “Commit to Lead”.

Each year, participants elect a panel of their peers to serve on the Youth Board These individuals will attend additional sponsored learning events throughout the year, tour area cooperatives and aid in planning the next year’s conference. The 2018-19 Co-ops Yes! Youth Board members are:

· Alexander Boehm from Galesville, Wis. (Sponsored by Riverland Energy Cooperative)

· Carisa Cleven from Kendall, Wis. (Sponsored by Foremost Farms USA)

· Wyatt Hamilton from Alma, Wis. (Sponsored by Riverland Energy Cooperative)

· Elizabeth Hofer from Bruce, S.D. (Sponsored by Sioux Valley Energy)

· Josie Scholten from Hills, Minn. (Sponsored by Sioux Valley Energy)

· Emilie Staeffler from Luverne, Minn. (Sponsored by Sioux Valley Energy)

The program was provided with support from Compeer Financial, Heartland Credit Union, Organic Valley and Summit Credit Union.

Cooperative Network serves approximately 400 Wisconsin and Minnesota member-cooperatives by providing advocacy, education, public awareness, and development services to a wide variety of cooperatives including agricultural marketing and processing, credit unions, dairy, electric, Farm Credit, farm supply, health care, mutual insurance, housing, service, telecommunications, worker-owned cooperatives, and more. For more information about Cooperative Network, visit