Guided by Experience
August 25th, 2017 by Pam Blair

Visiting Washington, D.C., is a new experience for many Youth Tour students.
Thankfully, they are led by someone who has been there before: Jim Donahue, director of communications and member services for Grand Canyon State Electric Cooperative Association.

Visiting Washington, D.C., is a new experience for many Youth Tour students.

Thankfully, they are led by someone who has been there before: Jim Donahue, director of communications and member services for Grand Canyon State Electric Cooperative Association.

An Army brat with family ties to the Washington, D.C., area, Jim took his first tour of the nation’s capital in 1964 and has traveled there for business and vacations. His mother, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather are buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Since 2000, Jim has been tour coordinator for the Arizona group. He runs Youth Tour with military precision and discipline—all in an effort to ensure a safe, smooth trip.

“I was brought up that if you are not ‘there’ 15 minutes early, you are late,” says Jim. “But it is more than that. We’re there for a short time and there is a lot to see. For some of the students, this will be their only trip to D.C., so I try to pack as many things into the trip as possible. The only way to do that is to be on time and follow the schedule and rules. Our itinerary is fast paced and includes many sites and events. We run long days. We are typically out by 8 a.m. and get back to the hotel sometime around 10 p.m. Some of the states have an evening or two where they close down early. Not us. There are things to see.”

Students understand he isn’t being mean.

“Yes, the dress code was strict,” says Alissa Kaabe of Anza Electric Cooperative. “Yes, we woke up early and were never late, but we all knew that it was because he wanted us to look respectful and represent our states well and because he wanted us to see everything we possibly could, and we sure did that!”

Jim identifies numerous career highlights: Thomas Miller, a Marine who served in Hawaii and went ashore at Iwo Jima, talking with students; a student telling a congressman he intended to be one of his appointments to the U.S. Air Force Academy and was; hearing of students reconnecting to be college roommates; and earning VIP seats for the Sunset Parade this year. He is Facebook friends with many former Youth Tour students.
Jim says his “most important metric” is that everyone comes back in one piece.

“My rules, the buddy system, fire escapes, rally points all are aimed to see that we succeed in making mommies and daddies happy,” he says. “For the students, they need to think this trip has been the best they have ever experienced. Every year, I learn something to improve the trip. This year’s survey resulted in a 4.94 on a five-point scale.”